The New Yorker is as angry as that sedate, patrician magazine gets in this screed about the state of the travel industry, specifically airlines, and how their intent is to make us deliberately miserable:
The fees have proved a boon to the U.S. airlines, which will post a projected twenty-billion-dollar profit in 2014. To be fair, airlines are not just profiting because of fee income. Reduced competition, thanks to mergers, helps. There is also the plummet in the price of oil, which the airlines seem to have collectively agreed is no reason to reduce fares or even remove “fuel surcharges.” But for the past decade it is fees that have been the fastest-growing source of income for the main airlines, having increased by twelve hundred per cent since 2007. …
the fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.
Extortion! Sadly, even longtime holdout (and my up-to-this-point favorite airline) JetBlue is in getting in on the action.
As perhaps you’ve heard, three boys, including an American citizen, were kidnapped this week while hitchhiking in Israel. Hitchhiking used to be a national pastime, a cheap and easy way to get from Point Aleph to Point Bet; though we knew the dangers, even my friends and I did it on occasion, with no ill effects. (I lived there in 2000, before the Second Intifada and the wall and everything, basically the last good time.) Now it’s mostly settlers and very religious people who are tremping (hitchhiking), not just because it’s convenient, but to make a point:
With a vast manhunt under way since early Friday as police and the army search for the three teenage boys abducted late Thursday night, the subject of hitchhiking is on everyone’s minds. The three boys were tremping home from their schools in the West Bank, as is customary. It’s a cheaper, and often more convenient way of getting around than the less frequent public buses. …
S., the high school student, lives in Jerusalem, but attends an all-boys school in Kiryat Arba, a settlement next to Hebron. His parents would prefer that he only take the bus, and have even offered to pay for a private cab, but that’s not an option, he said, even though his parents can afford it. “It’s just not normal to take a cab, no one does that,” he said. “If you’re right-wing or an extremist, you take a tremp. Tremping is the norm.” He said he knows how to identify a safe driver, or fellow hitchhiker. They look like him, he said, pointing to his jeans, polo-shirt and kippah. “If I see someone with a kippah, wearing a tee-shirt with a school emblem and with a backpack, I feel like I know him,” said S.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of trusting someone because they look or act like you. (See: Frozen. “We finish each other’s –” “Sandwiches!” “That’s what I was going to say!”) Especially when there’s an economic incentive. (See: Madoff, Bernie.) And of course everyone thinks their own judgment is solid; we’d have a hard time functioning if we questioned every first impression and gut instinct. How do you thread that needle? How do you decide who to trust with your money or your safety? Do you have any good hitchhiking stories, or is it something you’d never do, never never never, no matter how cash-poor you got?