I’m writing this inside a room of the Regal Airport Hotel in Hong Kong, where I’m stranded for a night after missing my connecting flight back to Manila (my Cathay Pacific flight from Auckland, New Zealand, got delayed by almost an hour). The folks managing my Manila flight--also on Cathay--decided they couldn’t wait for me anymore and just bribed me with a one-night stay in a hotel staffed by irritable front-desk personnel. I suspect they had overbooked, something these greedy airlines do all the time.
This is the first time it happened to me, and I feel so helpless. I have important things to do in the office in the morning, but they will have to wait now that I’m stuck overseas for another day. If only I could jump into a car and race my way home. Which brings me to this mental debate: Which is better, car travel or air transport? After giving it some thought, my vote goes to the trusty automobile and here are my reasons why.
1. My car doesn’t segregate passengers according to social status. My car doesn’t have first-class and business-class sections. In fact, its whole cabin is economy. But at least it doesn’t make any of its passengers feel like they’re second-class citizens. Every single occupant inside my car has equal privileges--with equal legroom and headroom to boot.
2. You don’t have to take off your shoes and belt to enter my car. If you ask me to give you a lift, I won’t conduct a suspicious body search. No need to empty your coin purse or take out your laptop computer. In short, I will treat you with utmost respect and not assume you’re a terrorist plotting to blow up my car.
3. There are no delays or waiting in lounges in my car. Once you slam the door shut, we’re ready to roll. Our departure is not dependent on other people’s schedules. In the words of American car journalist David E. Davis Jr.: “We drive our cars because they make us free. With cars, we need not wait in airline terminals...”
4. With my car, I get to choose my seatmate. Because I own the damn thing, I have the right to pick who gets to ride with me. There’s no risk of getting randomly seated beside a smelly or obnoxious person. On the 12-hour flight from Hong Kong to New Zealand, I had the misfortune of sitting beside a stinking passenger. (I have to restrain myself from mentioning the man’s nationality, lest I get tagged as racist.) I can’t imagine a more horrible way to reach one’s destination.
5. You don’t need to turn off your mobile phone when riding in my car. That’s because my car doesn’t have state-of-the-art navigation equipment that might go berserk in the presence of crisscrossing cellular signals. I won’t even take it against you if you keep minding your phone throughout the trip while I navigate the traffic. Just spare me the Justin Bieber ringtone.
6. In my car, you get to pick what to eat. Okay, not that I always allow eating inside my car. But in the rare times that I do, there’s a multitude of drive-thru choices you can ask me to go to. You don’t have to settle for bland sweet-and-sour pork topped on undercooked rice. And you certainly don’t have to wash down a full meal with a half-filled small beverage cup (what’s up with that?).
7. Turbulence doesn’t exist in my car. Sure, the car is going to be unsettled every now and then by the ginormous potholes on EDSA, but you know there’s no danger of the vehicle plummeting down due to a strong headwind or an air pocket.
8. Your ears won’t hurt on a road trip. Unless we drive from an incredibly high place, there won’t be pressure buildup in our ears, which can hurt like hell. Well, my ears sometimes bleed from a passenger’s incessant talking or choice of music, but the discomfort is nowhere near the suffering I get subjected to when the plane is descending.
9. You won’t lose your bags in my car. Assuming you don’t leave your stuff inside the car in plain view for glass-breaking thieves to swipe away, your belongings are pretty much safe in my hatchback. Which can’t be said about the luggage you check in for the flight. I’ve personally had an airline lose my suitcase for days. Which wasn’t funny, especially since said suitcase had all my underwear.
10. My car has a crumple zone. If my car’s smallish gasoline engine conks out, we can always crawl to safety on the road shoulder. On the other hand, a malfunction in one of the aircraft’s engines can teach you a painful (and most likely lethal) lesson in gravitational pull. I don’t care if the statistics say that the chances of dying in an airplane crash (one in 11 million) are infinitely smaller than those in an automotive accident (one in 5,000), I’d still travel in a car every single time. I just feel safer inside a car. The seatbelt, the airbag, the antilock brakes--every safety feature of a car seems confidently designed to save my life. And if I do crash, my car’s front part will absorb much of the impact. Now, if the plane crashes, I’m pretty sure its nose will cave into the passenger cabin. But I probably won’t feel that anymore because I will have been incinerated by then. That’s why I don’t bother to listen to bored flight attendants trying to show me what to do in case of a crash landing. Frankly, if I know the plane is crashing, I won’t be in the mood to curl my body in a fetal position. On the contrary, I’ll be spreading my arms wide open and surrendering my spirit to God.