Popular misconceptions are one thing.
Some ideas we cling to whether we believe in them or not, to make society run more smoothly: Santa, the existence of true love, the conviction that pushing the Close Door button will shut the elevator door faster. It won’t, probably, but it is nice to have something to push. As long as it doesn’t bother anyone, why let facts get in the way? It’s of a piece with our collective decision to ignore the fact that we will someday die, so we can go about our daily lives without constantly screaming, curled in the fetal position.
Other ideas have simply penetrated, for whatever reason, into phrases or anecdotes, and we cannot shake them — George Washington’s wooden teeth, the notion that ostriches hide their heads in the sand as a form of camouflage, the warning about swimming after you eat. They linger. Occasionally we suspect that they lack factual grounding. But they do little harm.
And then there are unpopular misconceptions — for instance, that your iPad is going to wreak havoc on this plane.
Now it looks as though the FAA has finally seen the error of its electronics-banning ways. The New York Times is reporting that it may soon move to permit the use of tablets and e-readers onboard. A commission of variably gruntled concerned parties is meeting and will emerge this summer with its recommendations.
(The FCC controls cellphones, so we’ll have to cross that bridge separately.)
It would be about time. We have long been indignant about it. As Toby once remarked on West Wing, “We’re flying in a Lockheed Eagle Series L-1011. Came off the line 20 months ago. Carries a Sim-5 transponder tracking system. And you’re telling me I can still flummox this thing with something I bought at Radio Shack?”
And now the pilots are carrying iPads. Clearly, the devices were not causing any disruption. Why the ban? Had the FAA been spurned by a Kindle during its formative years?
Then again, as a lover of paper books, I can’t help feeling that this is a bit of a shame. I used to console myself with the idea that physical books would always exist because you had to have something to read during take-off. It was, admittedly, a thin justification. But it was something. Some days, thin justifications are all you have, like the days when you squint into the mirror and mutter, “Dang it, I may not be famous or successful or good-looking, but of my friends I am the only one under 5’8″ who can list the presidents in order by number and only confuse Garfield and McKinley.” Our egos require these sops. But now what excuse do books have? E-readers keep encroaching on the physical book market, and the Internet keeps encroaching on everything.
It’s not just during takeoff. Once, airplanes were a place where you could sit back, relax, and be blissfully disconnected from all humanity, except the couple moving about oddly under the blanket nearby and the Amanda Bynes movie that was being inflicted on you. When you were in the air, you did not have to be on e-mail, on Twitter, on — anything. For a few moments, the only unwanted push notifications you were getting came from the large man next to you in an ill-fitting shirt with an iguana on the lapel. You could get lost in a book and feel no guilt whatsoever. Now there’s WiFi onboard. Once we get the e-readers and cellphones up and running, planes will be another place just like everywhere else. A flight won’t be a separate two-hour block where you Have To Do Something Different –Watch a Movie or Read That Book You Just Bought or Leaf Through SkyMall or Make Awkward Conversation With The Couple Across the Aisle. It’ll be just another less comfortable spot to stare at the same thing you always stare at. Maybe there was never any reason not to. But while it lasted, the misconception was nice. Even if it was just during takeoff and landing.
Unless they don’t get rid of it, that is. Then it’s just ridiculous.