In-Flight Calls Are on the Way, Which Sucks. It Sucks Hard.

There goes your excuse for being unreachable

December 9, 2016 9:00 am

The Wall Street Journal today reported that U.S. airlines and the Department of Transportation are considering allowing passengers to make calls on their cell phones while in flight.

Yeah, the hits keep on coming.

The airlines and the DOT are trying to brush it off as No Big Deal, noting that commuters have been using phones on public transportation for a while now (not to mention those old car phone-looking things that used to be embedded in economy class seatbacks).

But we’re also not crammed on buses and subways for several hours, and trains have special sections for those who want to talk on the phone. And then there’s the fact that people somehow transform into their worst selves on airplanes.

Why make a bad situation worse?

The good news is that a lot of people loathe the prospect — including Travelers United and the entire 266 commenters on the WSJ piece (one commenter noted that it was the first time in a long time everyone was in agreement about something: “bipartisan support!”).

Maybe that’s the fix: have a section in the back of the plane where those gabbers can sit, much like the smoking section of bygone days. Hell, upcharge them for it.

But being thoroughly annoyed by garrulous fellow passengers is only part of the problem. There’s also the fact that airplanes are one of the last frontiers of being legitimately unreachable. I get no texts. I get no emails. I get no calls. I tell people that I’m on a plane and all is forgotten.

For a few fleeting moments of my life, I am truly off the grid — and that’s when I get my best thinking done. It’s called batching, or the art of blocking out time to focus on projects undistracted, and practicing it will help you complete big things and give you time to reflect and daydream, two exercises that greatly increase your creativity.

So, sure, people chatting on planes will violate privacy and perhaps the rules of polite company. But more importantly, it saps us of an opportunity to be thoughtful, creative and alone.

And those are opportunities we should treasure in 2016.

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