Not as dumb as we look

Long-time readers know that I’m quite favorably inclined these days toward a macrocosmic viewpoint that regards humanity as a unique strain of a big-brained virus that’s gone completely apewire, a virus that’s now showing itself to be capable of pushing the systems of the entire planet toward a cataclysmic exclamation point of some sort that, within the next hundred years or so, might well make things like golf, energy drinks and drip systems somewhat irrelevant.

But there are moments, I have to admit, when I can be impressed enough with the human experiment to wonder if I should dare to allow some optimism for our future to seep into my perpetually gloom-enshrouded crystal ball. Take flying, for example. By flying, I mean air travel. I was standing in the El Paso airport recently and had the time to reflect on air travel in general. I couldn’t help but be impressed. I mean, there I was, in this place where hundreds of planes take off and land every day at all hours of the day. And El Paso is just one of hundreds of airports on this planet, a planet where, every day, millions of people are flying to and from someplace on thousands and thousands of airplanes. And daily, thousands and thousands of people are working on those thousands and thousands of airplanes.

As I stood there in the airport, watching all the passengers scurrying about, trying to get it together with their little rolling luggages and their laptops and their scorching coffees (Starbuck’s, quit scalding my tongue, goddammit!), I could see that most of us are screw-ups and knuckleheads and self-absorbed ding-dongs, and yet … all the planes take off. Sure, some of ’em are late, some get canceled, but, generally, they all take off. All the people get on board, and they take off, and they land, and this happens thousands and thousands of times every day and, somehow, it all works. It all gets done. Out of the thousands and thousands of flights every day, not one of them crashes. 364 days out of 365, not one plane in the big game that is Earth Air Travel crashes. Somehow, all those people in the towers make it work. So do all the guys twirling wrenches and checking fuses. For a few minutes, I could sit down and reflect on the scope of it and how amazing the batting average is, the batting average of successful flights to crashed flights. And eventually, I had to admit that if we can pull this enormously complex stunt off every day, well, maybe we can pull some other stuff off, too. Some other big stuff. Just maybe.