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Principled Money Posts #24: ‘the curse of travel’ edition

This round up comes with a warning: if you shy away from rants stop reading now! Though, as most things about The Money Principle, this is a rant with a difference – I am going to offer a ‘different view point’ on airports and airport staff and would expect to hear what do you think (or even how do you feel) about it. But let me tell you my story first.

Friday evening, after a successful professionally and disastrous health-wise and running-wise week in Pretoria, I boarded an over-night British Airways flight back to London, Heathrow. Everything at the airport in Jo-burg was great – the lounge was wonderful, check-in was smooth and I even managed to charm the young man who checked me in into moving me to a seat with leg room. Yes, I had to be frisked but when I jokingly told the lady doing it that this is her lucky day she just laughed and said: ‘Yours as well, dear!’. Splendid, I thought, this is going really well. I already knew that my connecting flight to Manchester is from Terminal 5 as well – so what could possibly go wrong?

Little did I know that landing at Heathrow Terminal 5 all will disintegrate into a string of unpleasantness, stress and vexation. Mainly about security, and mainly completely useless. To get in the country passports were checked three times; yes, you heard me right THREE times. What happened to doing things once but well?

This was not all; when examining the hand luggage the real nightmare began. Having run the hand luggage through very expensive machinery the staff at Heathrow had decided that they will check manually every fifth piece of luggage. Guess who was one of the lucky ones? Yep, me! With 30 minutes to go till my flight closes, no idea how far the gate is and desperately needing to go to the bathroom after 12 hours on an airplane, I was surrounded by male and female underwear­­­­­­­ that had been taken out of people’s bags, my poor back-pack (containing only medicine and papers) was one amongst a long line of bags to be examined and everyone around me was hopping mad. The staff was enjoying themselves though; their barely suppressed glee in the power they welded, being able to treat grown up, tired people as naughty children.

Finally, the turn of my back-pack came; a woman whose accent I could not understand (and I am not saying this lightly being an adopted Brit myself) took everything out, swiped another expensive piece of equipment over it and…just when I thought that is it, I am ready to rush to the bathroom and then the gate, she put it to the side in another queue. Apparently, my back-pack showed ‘traces’.

WTF! Traces of what? I had only 10 minutes till my flight closes. No chance for a visit to the bathroom anyway. Finally, we were re-united, my back-pack and me and after putting everything back in I legged it to the gate.

OK, I got on the plane last but I did get on. Did I need this stress after a very long journey? No I didn’t!

What this made me think about, however, is the fact that a power drive is hidden behind the appearance of security. I can’t actually see how what happened on Saturday morning at Heathrow makes flying safer – I think that it only makes travelling much more stressful and frankly, not worth it for work. I don’t need this kind of bullsh*t in my life – and I get it far too often and regularly.

When did we passengers, who are THE CUSTOMER of Airports, become THE ENEMY? When did the job description of staff working at Airports changed from being helpful and courteous to finding imaginative ways for ritual humiliation?

If anyone out there, reading my blog can answer these questions or would like to share – please do! After all, ritual humiliation breeds as a response collective tension venting occasions. This may just be one of them!

Travel is becoming a curse that can be endured when there is a vacation waiting at the end; for work though…well, I’ll have to think about it. Travelling around the blogosphere is a different matter entirely – my kind of thing. One can sit back, be comfortable, be anywhere, learn and enjoy. So here are the articles that caught my attention recently.

Krantcents asked why aren’t there more women leaders and offered nine tips to those amongst us who would like to climb the corporate ladder. These are probably OK – except the one about working harder, that is. There is much research that shows that after a certain level of mastery working hard is not the thing that ‘gets you there’; it is working smart. Working hard, I have observed, gets people tired and cranky, and there is the danger of being considered to be ‘a safe pair of hands’. This is what many women are seen as and this is why they get stuck somewhere in the middle – after which they get out and start doing something that is really worth it. There are two interesting things in all this ‘women and leadership’ stuff: a) it is context specific (large parts of Africa are still matriarchies); and b) the time of women is coming with the advent of the ‘network economy’. How about that?

Air travel seems to be in the air…or I am just sensitised to anything to do with this form of transportations. AverageJoe is considering some nifty tricks to avoid flying with American Airlines – I am with you on this one, Joe; I also try to avoid flying via the US when I can. I love your country, folks, but the transit system (rudimentary) is hard to take and ‘the customer’ is even more’ the enemy’ in the US than in Europe (though we are rapidly catching up).

You know I don’t go very much with the ‘frugal school of thought’ – except when frugality is an art form. Dominique however surprises with his article on how to be a frugal family. Frankly, some of the tips are a bit weathered but the spirit of the article is commendable – communication, working together towards a common goal (including the kids) and not wasting are important. I do believe that entertainment, including far away holidays, is important – it is a statement of our humanity and keeping it in our budgets makes it that much easier to be disciplines/motivated about the rest.

Could I give up my car to save cash? Paul, I thought you will never ask. I not only could, I did it – three years ago we went from two cars to one and sold my lovely, bright yellow and entirely impractical Smart. Do I miss it? Probably not – it was a bother to drive around anyway. In fact, I have been eyeing our only car and thinking that it is costing too much given that it is in the drive most of the time. We shall see whether it will become part of the radical financial make over of The Money Principle family unit.

If you like courage and love honesty please read this article. I did write something similar couple of months ago – and felt like salmon swimming against the flow of personal finance. Thank you, 101 Centavos, for lending a bit of support to the message that payday loan companies are businesses like any other and they carry a lot of risk; and that payday loans are like any other instrument – they can be used responsibly when all other options are closed.

I know this is getting too long, but I simply had to tell you about this one. If you have children and are worried about the way in which they are taught at school (how to pass tests instead of how to learn, for instance) you can always ‘unschool’ them. Want to know how? Read this article by Leo Babauta; I did and I am going to have a go.

Over the last two weeks The Money Principle was included in the following carnivals:
Wealth Artisan’s FinCarn at Wealth Artisan
Yakezie Carnival at Earth and Money
Carnival of MoneyPros at Master the Art of Saving
Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at My University Money
Y and T’s Weekend Ramblings at Young and Thrifty

Yakezie Carnival at I Am 1 Percent
Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at Wealthy Turtle
Carnival of Financial Planning at Money Talks Coaching
Carnival of Retirement at Consumer Boomer
Wealth Artisan’s FinCarn at Wealth Artisan

Thanks for that! And thanks to all good people who included us in their round-ups.

10 thoughts on “Principled Money Posts #24: ‘the curse of travel’ edition”

  1. Maria, as a travel blogger in the other half of my waking hours, I understand exactly how you feel. The actual travel by flying part of many trips is more of an endurance test than anything verging on relaxing, never mind enjoyable. Queues to check in bags, the get through security, the hand luggage police patrolling the boarding gate queues with their measuring box and then the scrum to board flights which don’t  have allocated searing
    However I haven’t encountered any problems with security staff at any airports, but then I do all I can to avoid flying through Heathrow after missing a connecting flight there years ago due to BA’s inefficiency.

    • @Karen: I don’t think that what happened last Saturday was usual; it was just very annoying and uncomfortable. As to the rest – I do endure. On the way to SA, the the airhost din’t realise that when there is a picture on Kindle this the limit of being switched off and kept telling me to sitch it off. We were like in a sketch – gradually our voiced were escalating, the stress and tension was raising and the argument consisted of ‘switch if off’, ‘it is switched off’; untill another passanger supported my claim :).

    • @Miss T: No, it is not random. Once at Heathrow again, I entertained myself by counting; and the machine was set to beep every sixth person or something. I went on to point out that frisking is a great loss of opportunity: if men frisk women and the other way around. They overheard me and then I was almost strip searched – by a woman. Learned to keep my mouth shut.

  2. Maria, you’re singing my song there… or is it really a lament?  Although airport security seems to be the worst in the US and the UK,  passengers are treated as no more than cattle pretty much anywhere.  On this last trip to the UK, I was on the way to the gates after checking, I was stopped by a dull-eyed gal just before the visa lines, and instructed go back to the airline counter because my carry-on bag was just a smidge too large. No amount of (polite) protest would sway the (blank) lady.  I had to hoof it back to the Delta counter and check my bag in.  Very vexing!
    Thanks for the mention and the kind words.
    (I didn’t get a trackback, by the way, just happened to stumble by.)

  3. I always have a horrible thought: will measures to take down terrorists bankrupt our institutions? We spend so much money on protecting the world from the .01% I don’t understand it. 

    Thanks for pointing to my dilemma post. I can’t stand flying in the US either….but only notice it when I’m abroad. It’s appalling how bad our air travel is vs. the rest of the world (and don’t start me on our trains). 


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