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Travel Addiction: The Newest Affliction of a Troubled Nation

This is the nation with no path but thousands of flight paths. We are on a treadmill -- there is no road to speak of. And do we get anywhere if all we do is run?
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"I feel my A.D.D. kicking in," an acquaintance muttered while I was meticulously explaining something. So that's it, huh: a greater kind of self-importance where we name an ailment as an excuse not to listen?

A large percentage of my colleagues have antsy pants and can't keep still in their own skins. They need help more than the average obsessed guy and I think it's a problem that, if solved, could get our nation on the money track again. We need to teach people not to run -- focus. And then leave us alone! You see, civilized drug addicts keep what they do to themselves while travel "warriors" make our lives tougher! When I'm on a trip with an endgame, the last thing I want is to run (literally run) into a person desperate for his next fix. These proud road junkies make work trips horrible and yet we constantly blame the airlines.

If you have a decent life in a single American town, why seek the attention of flight attendants and hardworking gate/counter/baggage employees who are there to get things done? (These people don't care that you traveled 300,000 miles in the last nine months.)

This is an intro to the newest treatable addiction: nonstop travel need -- NTN.

I offer my findings, collected during last year's 31 trips for pay. This year I got many fewer requests to go away; thank you, drizzling economy, for helping me enjoy the human side of me. My own need for speed subsided. I got to look at wild-eyed show hogs who can't stop bitching how they'll have to catch me on the way back from Colombia or South Carolina's Columbia. I was pleased not to be comparing notes -- or pointing out how lots of pissed-off working folk never get to go anywhere!

I now list 10 and a half reasons why the afflicted call the seatback their place in the sun:

1. Packing is more fun than realizing everything you own sucks.
Imagine you had to shop for food, clothes and basic essentials -- when those little packets are adorable.

2. When you get a pretzel in the air, you get to play with your food. No one can hear you crunch in airspace. Or say "Clean up your shirt."

3. Car services and cabs offer time for yourself. Someone is always there to greet you, even if they hate your guts for the wait while you caffeinated at the gate.

4. Airline miles are the new sex toy. I know and you know ones who talk about frequent miles as if badges of honor; if you're not giving them to me I don't want to hear about it.

5. Flight attendants are paid to be nice to you. Sure this is obvious but when the attendant says "You know the drinks list, dude" you should reexamine your priorities. (5b.) A tip of the fedora to you slobs who see these individuals as your maid.

6. Smiling is not your thing when you are running through an airport. Neither are manners. Good thing everyone's a stranger who's afraid you're about to go postal when you act like you're the only one going to the tarmac.

7. It's easy to avoid finishing your work when you are "going to the airport" or "just getting back." How many times has someone used "I'm at the airport" just to get you to call them back or to avoid a meeting? It's endemic.

8. You will never have a shot at dieting if you're eating airplane food. Everyone who over-travels is fat. It's the second best excuse to, "I would be thinner but the kids take so much of my time, darn."

9. Relationships that crumble get blamed on The Schedule! "What can I do? I have to travel for work." Imagine the bullshit here. We always seem to find time to watch The Office and a pickup game every week. Breakups are easy when you're never around. I never blame someone for playing around on a moveable object.

And 10 -- the final cause of NTN. Why bother with self-examination when it's so easy to people watch? A runner with bags is not about to be pensive. He does, however, notice the idiot in the fast lane who can't find his boarding pass, and rolls his eyes loudly every time! Does the insane traveler wonder if his actions affect those around them? Travel is, by its nature, massless action and forward momentum. I'm not a pop psychologist, but in 50 years I have discovered that choosing the right "fork" means staying put.

This is the nation with no path but thousands of flight paths. We are on a treadmill -- there is no road to speak of. And do we get anywhere if all we do is run? (I'm included in this newfangled diaspora since I travel between two homes.) Airline economics are screwed up. Isn't it shocking how cheap interstate trips are? To hear college kids fly home instead of grabbing a bus or a car is to know no one is teaching about journey. If you start young with incessant flying for kicks, in the end you never learn to enjoy anything. A trip is a few hours of "existing" while we can't play with our PDA!

There is no pride felt while bobbing your head toward a lap-held device while someone talks in your direction. Like most sane people, I long for conversations with no participation by Ms. BlackBerry or Sir iPhone. Those times are few between. Airport to airport existence nets fewer meaningful moments with anyone (except when you're naughty). Ritalin can't help you there.

One day I'll go on the road to alert talk show hosts about NTN's affect on our culture but for now I'm going to nap. I've got nowhere to go today. And I love it.

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