Until now, my most terrifying flying experience was taking a small plane out of Palenque, Mexico to visit the Mayan ruins at Bonampak. The plane, and I use the term loosely, was more like a winged golf cart with six seats. As we strapped in, I learned the other two passengers were from Spain. There was no time for more; the pilot abruptly stepped on the gas and we bounced along the pitted runway heading toward some very solid-looking trees. As we picked up speed, I happened to glance over to my right, and there beside the runway lay another plane exactly like ours — crashed to smithereens. Before I could say, “Let me out here!” our plane leapt into the air clearing the trees by inches. Behind me, the Spaniard shouted “Olé.”
Not to keep you in suspense, we did survive the flight. But it gave me a benchmark for aviational terror that has stood for many years. However, the recent announcement that officials were likely to extend the ban on laptops and Kindles in the passenger cabin of all Europe-USA flights had me seriously rattled.
For a start, the reasons cited for the ban were beautifully worded to sound exactly like what they would tell you if they wanted to cover up the real reason. They contained phrases like “ISIS threat” and “national security” and “if I told you more I’d have to kill you.” Well, OK, maybe not that last, but they were remarkably vague yet menacing. I was forcibly reminded of those government’s warnings about an “anthrax scare” designed to keep us all away from the alien landing site in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I’m not saying the current administration is actually covering up an alien invasion — although at this point, nothing would surprise me.
As of yesterday, all I really knew was that next month, when heading back to the USA from Spain, I'd likely be prohibited from taking any electronics larger than my smartphone in my carry-on luggage.
“How am I supposed to spend all those hours on a plane without a Kindle?” I moaned to some fellow expats. “And do I check my laptop, and risk it being damaged or stolen? Or leave it behind and buy another when I get to the USA for the summer? This is insane!”
“Those are the least of your worries,” a friend said. “Think about all those lithium batteries being packed in the cargo hold. You know they’ve caused explosions and crashed planes. It’s scary enough to think there might be one or two down there. You have seventy of them? Down below where nobody will notice right away if they do burst into flames? That’s insane. My husband and I decided this morning if the ban happens, we won’t be flying.”
Yikes! That kind of put my worry about running out of reading material into perspective.
As if all that wasn’t enough to provoke nightmares, articles began appearing describing the kind of chaos the ban would create at airports, sparking endless delays, missed flights, lost luggage, and thousands of seriously grumpy passengers.
So you can imagine how thrilled I was to wake up this morning and read this headline:
Later articles, including a revised version of the one shown above, aren't quite so definite. "Laptop ban may not be extended to Europe," the Guardian headline now reads. Others say the ban is "off the table," at least for the time being.
“Apparently the aliens decided not to visit Earth this week,” I said to Rich. “And who could blame them?”
But just to make sure we don’t get too comfortable, officials announced they are considering other security measures.
“Nude flying,” Rich said. “It’s the next logical step.”
If that happens, my friends, I am definitely staying home.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain and currently visiting my home state of California.
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