So I’m headed from San Francisco to Las Vegas on US Air and there’s this little screen right in front of my face. I’m used to that. It doesn’t bother me very much. I mean, I don’t like it, but I can live with it. Up to a point. Just like I don’t particularly freak out about the fact that wherever you go in just about every airport you have to see Lou Dobbs bolted to the ceiling above your head. Or possibly Wolf Blitzer.
Now I’m on the plane. On the little screen as we taxi away from the gateway is the safety film that we’re all supposed to watch and nobody does. It’s very, very long, covering just about everything but how to use the air sick bag. I remember when the job was done (as it still is to this day by commuter airlines and Jet Blue) by the flight attendants, who stood in the aisles and demonstrated the proper method of fastening a safety belt, how to put on the flotation device and use the oxygen masks, all that good stuff. Now it’s as long as Lord of the Rings. Then, when it’s done, they start it all over again in Spanish. That’s a funny thing, too, because it’s the same exact film with a Spanish voice over, yet suddenly all the people in the film who looked so all-American before now suddenly appear to be Spanish.
But wait. There’s more. When the two massively comprehensive safety features are over, US Air continues the show with a whole series of commercials about the great things you can do in Las Vegas and a bunch of ads for hotels around the world at destinations served by the airline. They go on and on, these ads. Blah blah blah, full sound, less than a foot from my damn face. After a good long time, I turn to my seat mate, who I do not know, since she is now awake. She had been trying to sleep, but gave up when the nattering terminally ended that dream. “It’s a bunch of commercials,” I say to her. “They’ve got us watching commercials.” She looks at me blankly. It’s hard to read that look. It’s possible she thinks I’m a little crazy to be complaining about this. Maybe I am.
In the elevator up to my room, a small TV set displays a naked woman getting a massage. The message is that I could be that naked woman if I make an appointment. There is also a clip of a massive sworl of spaghetti being twirled onto a fork. People at a table are smacking their lips. Those could be my lips that are smacking, if I would only respond to the message being beamed directly into my face.
When I get into the room the television is on, tuned to the hotel channel. Tigers. Penn and Teller. People eating. Naked people being lathered up. Whatever. At least I can turn it off. I do.
Now it’s later and I’m leaving Las Vegas. I’m sitting in the executive lounge reserved for people who must fly too much to retain their sanity. There is no corner of the club where you can’t hear a television. Lou Dobbs again. Wolf Blitzer. Golf. The room is empty except for me and this one guy who is working on his PC. “You mind if I turn this off?” I ask him. “You look like you’re working.”
“No, man,” he says. “Be my guest.”
I turn it off. The room is silent, except for the very small burble of Nancy Grace somewhere.
“Ah,” says the guy. “That’s nice.”