We all know people who act like they would rather text or check the Internet than eat. The airlines have noticed this, too. A new survey suggests that more business travelers would choose an airline with WiFi service over flights with meals, free movies, or even convenient arrival times. I understand that when it comes to airplane food, nobody ever asked for “seconds.” But to choose the Internet over a snack? The survey didn’t ask them if they’d rather have WiFi or a promise that their luggage wouldn’t get lost, but I have a feeling that they would have gone with the Web. If their luggage gets lost, they’ll probably just shrug and buy new stuff on the Internet.
It seems that 76 percent of the people interviewed would choose an airline based on the availability of in-flight Internet service. I tend to choose an airline based on which is the cheapest and then which is the most convenient.
Among others, Southwest Airlines, Delta and American either already have WiFi on their flights or they will soon. So those people who can’t go for more than a few minutes without using their computers or “smart” phones, will be able to fly and check on the weather in Trinidad-Tobago, find out which football players got arrested today and learn who Jennifer Aniston went out with last night.
I’m not a computer addict, but some people are. It’s no joke. In fact, the first American live-in treatment center for Internet addiction opened recently. There are many such centers in China, South Korea and Taiwan where Web addiction is taken more seriously. These are people who spend almost every waking hour playing video games, watching porn, or talking to their virtual friends rather than eating, sleeping, working, or spending time with their families. These folks have fallen on hard times, so it’s appropriate that the treatment center is in Fall City, Washington.
Let’s move away from the serious to the merely annoying. Like most people, I’ve had to put up with someone next to me who types away on his computer the whole flight. Intellectually, I understand that a flight is a good opportunity to get some work done, but I usually find it irritating. I almost always think that these people are showing off how important and busy they are. Of course, the corollary to this is the thought, “If you’re so important, why are you with me in coach?”
But once in-flight WiFi becomes commonplace, we will have to put up with all kinds of new things. Do you really want to sit next to a teenager who is “Facebooking” for 2,000 miles? Can you imagine how important those missives will be? “OMG, we just passed another cloud.”
And what will the airlines’ policy be on porn? Is there even a way they could ban it? I don’t see how. So forget worrying about what movies the airline will show in front of your kids. Now you’ll have to worry about what the guy next to them is viewing on his computer screen. I don’t think an airplane is an appropriate place to watch something like, “Julie and Julia … and Jack.”
Then there are those who need to check their stocks every few minutes. That’s not a good idea for an in-flight activity, either. If the stock shoots way up and your neighbor shouts in celebration, aren’t you going to feel a bit jealous that you didn’t have that stock? On the other hand, if someone’s stock tanks during the flight and they yell in despair, he or she might become a danger to other passengers.
Admit it. If someone next to you is using their computer for the entire flight, it’s probably impossible not to glance over there every once in a while to see what’s on their screen. In the past, it’s been nothing special. Usually, it’s business stuff like charts or graphs. Now things may be quite different.
For all I know, the person next to me might be having “Internet sex.” I’m only human so I’m likely to try to casually look over at my neighbor’s screen as he or she is smirking and typing and then smirking lasciviously again. Then I’ll be shocked as I read something like: “There is a really annoying guy who keeps peeking at what I’m typing.”
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.