I love driving. It was the first thing I remember really, really wanting as a child. Now that I live in the boonies and have a big yard, I have a riding mower, which is the perfect eight-year-old fantasy toy: a combination of loud vehicle and coloring book, back and forth between the lines, so pretty…
Anyway, I just got out of the car after ten hours, from Vermont to near Baltimore. According to Google Maps, I could have made it in seven hours and four minutes, but a) I am neither a camel nor a twenty-year old, and need to stop periodically, and b) it took almost two hours to go the last fifty miles, with crazy traffic problems.
Nonetheless, I’m glad to have driven instead of flown, because I HATE flying. Actually, that’s not true. I like being in the airplane. I get to do the crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine instead of answering e-mail.
It’s the other things I hate. I hate being on Travelocity and trying to figure out how to time my flights. I hate parking at the airport. I hate checking in, and wondering if I’ll get bumped from an oversold plane. I hate security, making sure I have everything out of pockets and managing the laptop and where’s the little baggie of toothpaste and dammit my belt set off the metal alarm again and now I have to carry my briefcase and my laptop and my coat and my shoes and my belt and my jacket across the room to get re-dressed in public. I hate the food, I hate the baggage claim, I hate figuring out what the driver’s local name for the hotel is. (“I’m at the University Suites.” “Oh, the Marriott?” “It says University Suites.” “Yeah, the Marriott. Hop in.”)
I hate making sure that I’m flying on the right day to the right city. I actually, years ago, booked a flight on the wrong day to a job interview (fortunately, I’d given myself what I thought was an extra day to explore town, so it turned out that I made the interview anyway and no one was the wiser).
So if I’m going to waste a day traveling—and I live two hours from the nearest airport, so every flight is a full-day commitment—I’d prefer to spend it in my fabulous car (2007 Civic Si) with my own music and my own pace and no security lines and a trunk that doesn’t charge $25 for each extra bag.
You, too, young scholar, will be traveling. You’ll be going to conferences and workshops and research trips, and you will also need to develop your own strategy for preferred travel. You probably won’t have anybody to book your flights for you unless you’re a permanent faculty member at a relatively high-end school, so get used to the joys of travel websites. (I use Travelocity and go cheap, so I’m not a member of any of the Emerald, Topaz, Ruby, Vanadium, Tanzanite, Admiral, Princess, Emperor, or Cyborg clubs; if this were an ocean ship a hundred years ago, I’d be in steerage.)
I say drive and be done with it.