Planes, Trains and Automobiles
On a recent afternoon, I met a friend downtown for lunch.
I walked out my back door, climbed down two flights of wooden stairs and walked a few hundred feet to a commuter train station. I found myself enjoying a steak and chipotle wrap and some sort of fruit flavored soda in less than an hour.
I enjoy traveling periodically for a needed change of scenery and a break in my routine. And, even though I’m not much of a holiday traveler, most of my family living within thirty miles of me, at this time of year, I marvel at the many pilgrimages people take to be with their familial tribe.
I figure I can walk a few blocks to catch a bus and transfer to the blue line, or, I can Uber, or I can talk a friend into driving me, and I’m at the airport.
It sort of amazes me. I don’t think about it much. I don’t think many other people give the thought much attention either. Between planes, trains and automobiles, we can go almost anywhere.
Some people travel as sport, almost as a type of competition. Proud of airline or hotel points they accumulate, pleased with themselves at finding good fares online or making it to some destination others in their circle have not visited yet.
Traveling for pleasure, holiday visits with family, commuting for work, or even running routine errands in a fraction of the time it used to require — most of us have lost touch with how miraculous just getting to a destination is.
Yes, it’s great to be in nature, to give yourself a reprieve from schedules and walk barefoot in the grass. The sounds of birds or the unexpected observation of a brown squirrel scurrying up a tree can act as a little wake-up call to appreciate things often overlooked.
But, planes, trains and automobiles — these inventions capture our imaginations. They serve a practical purpose. They also remind us that so much is possible.
In the 70’s, GPS (Global Positioning System) came on the scene. Now, there are multiple applications that provide maps and navigation instructions. They also provide up to the second reports on traffic patterns.
But, all these advances in software technology don’t give me the same sense of the miraculous.
I look forward to advances in powering vehicles from renewable energy, but I guess I’m in love with great leaps of conception. Just think about what the Wright Brothers did for aeronautics, or how British inventor Richard Trevithick pioneered train travel.
Recently, Congress passed a major infrastructure bill. Many thought it was miraculous because we’ve become accustomed to Congress not getting anything done.
The goals of this bill, and even the kind of investment required, seemed to be one of the few things otherwise polarized factions could agree on.
I thought about how inspiring invention is, in general, but bridges and roads, like the great American experiment in democracy, need to be maintained, updated, enhanced — never taken for granted.
As pilot or passenger, planes, trains and automobiles facilitate a direct experience of movement, often accompanied by a rush of freedom.
Getting from here to there is no small thing.
Re-printed with permission.