Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims, The Worst Business Travelers Ever

I cannot be held responsible for my actions the next time I am presented with one more Thanksgiving feature about either that dirty old rock sunk in trash-filled muck on the beach in depressing Plymouth, Mass., or about the damned miserable Pilgrims.

Why do we buy into this nonsense every Thanksgiving, an otherwise fine holiday? Why do we teach children these stone lies?

The Pilgrims' voyage was the earliest example in this country of a really, really bad business trip that never should have been undertaken.

Having been given the bums' rush from England, where they were unable to establish their odious form of sexually-repressed religious fanaticism, they inflicted themselves upon these shores expressly to implant a tradition of religious fanaticism, intolerance and Taliban-like retributiveness in the unsuspecting New World.

I think the Indians were remarkably tolerant of these gapers, considering that the Indians carried hatchets.

I tell British friends who pronounce themselves appalled at some of the things going on in the U.S. today that their own ancestors bear a good part of the blame. I mean, they imposed the Pilgrims, and the Pilgrims' partners in repression and religious hatred the Puritans, upon us 400 years ago.

"Can we send them back now?" I ask. "No, thank you very much," the Brits reply quickly.

Anyway, happy Thanksgiving.

We're holed up for the holiday at our getaway in the Sonoran desert, where it's 80 degrees and spectacularly sunny. This year, my daughter, son-in-law and their two small children joined us in Arizona.

Last night near twilight, my wife took our 4-year-old grandson for a walk in the Saguaro National Park. The boy is at an age where television and peer influences press the idea of "monsters" on him, and his parents have been very successful at dispelling the notion that monsters exist.

But on their walk on a long path, my wife and grandson encountered a huge jackrabbit that was more than 3 feet tall. The beast must have weighed 30 pounds, said my wife, a woman who never, ever exaggerates, and who only takes a single Coors Light on occasion.

The humongous jackrabbit just sat there looking at them, and as they looked back, he moved off to a spot 10 feet away and resumed staring. Then everybody walked on.

Now to me, this constituted an encounter with an actual, living monster. All of that work gone to hell, telling the kid there are no such things! But the boy just took it in stride, informing me later that he saw a rabbit "that was as big as me."

[I know Sonoran jackrabbits are not known for growing to anywhere near that size, but there are plenty of anecdotal reports online of just such beasts, and a cowboy I know out here says he's seen more than a few. Trust me: This was a monster jackrabbit].

But enough about rabbits.

The morning travel news is keyed to the idea that air travel yesterday went off fairly smoothly. My jaw dropped to see news organizations actually credit that risible "Thanksgiving Express Lanes" nonsense (that's a reference to Bush's hyped press conference last week, where he said some that commercial airliners would, for five days, be able to wander into air space reserved for the military off the East Coast. The effect is like adding an extra lane to a congested section of I-95 feeding into a tool plaza. That anyone took the Thanksgiving Express Lanes ploy seriously is a great wonder.)

Air travel went off yesterday without horrendous hitches because the weather was good. But many airports, especially in the New York area, still reported serious delays. And nothing has been fixed.

Meanwhile, as predicted, an airfare hike snuck in while the media were running around shrieking about travel delays and other worsening problems, real and imagined.

The fare hike, which could be the start of the 9th round of incremental industrywide fare increases since Labor Day, was slipped in by US Airways Tuesday night, according to the vigilant Rick Seaney of

US Air calls it a "fuel surcharge." Call it what you will. According to Rick, US Air filed a $4.65 per ticket increase, which comes to $5 with the 7.5 percent U.S. sales tax. That means, you pay an extra $5 whether you buy a roundtrip or one-way ticket.

You'll hear no carping here about these small fare increases, buy the way. Oil is about to kiss $100 a barrel again and the airlines need to raise fares a modest amount. They also need to improve service and improve their attitudes along with those slightly higher prices -- and that doesn't mean cutting capacity and strangling routes in small and mid-size cities.

I just wish they wouldn't be so coy about it. Come right out and say it: Can everybody please chip in for gas?


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