Thursday, December 23, 2004

more on travelling - less travelling

obviously, there are moments of pure sublimity associated with travelling: I have seen the three suns of Taiga Epsilon rise in sequence above the slow liquid methane cascades of Asgara, and watched from orbit as the great volcanoes of Meldran flung their flowering lava plumes fifteen kilometres into the air; I have swum with torcnymphs in the thick world-circling seas of Keet, and wandered alone among the twenty-thousand-year-old mander trees of Margate ... but mostly, my travelling has been the same as everyone else's - up before dawn to avoid the worst of the traffic and despite allowing four hours for a three hour journey still managing to be crawling at walking-pace through the Heathrow underpass tunnel ten minutes before the final call for check-in for a flight that then won't take off until it's been stationary at the end of Runway Two for forty minutes whilst they sort out a trade dispute at the air traffic control centre in West Maldon and change a set of tyres and a couple of crew members and finally arriving at wherever it was you wanted to go to with all-over cramps and possible food-poisoning still trying to remember what it is you have a nagging feeling you left behind in this morning's rush - and discovering, when you finally - at last! - arrive, that it was your self-possession, your dignity, your composure, your well-being, and everything else that used to make up your personality, which might or might not be slowly catching up.

so I shall be the first to sign up when someone finally comes round to offering the only sort of travel service that's utterly painless, and I see it like this:

having determined my itinerary, I go to the Fardream website and type in my destination and preferred times of departure or arrival both outward and inward, which, apart from confirming the booking and making the payment, is all that I have to do. at the appointed time, having packed my bags in the supplied case, I go to the Fardream terminal branch, of which there is at least one in each town, and make myself comfortable in one of the departure booths. I then take the blue pill ... and wake up in my bed at my destination.

the interim will have seen my comatose body transferred into a custom travelling pod and loaded, together with a full complement of similarly occupied pods, into, first, the local container truck, which will have transferred its cargo to a pod wagon at the nearest railway freight depot, and then into the vivarium cargo hold of a wide-bellied jet; this, carrying only a small minority of wakeful passengers, will have flown to my destination of choice, where, upon landing, my rack of pods will have been transferred to a local container truck, thence to a smaller delivery truck, which will have discharged its pods individually to the exact destination requested, where its collection will have been supervised by a Fardream rep, who will be present, wearing a reassuringly professional smile, as he or she revives me.

no aspect of this journey will have troubled me in the slightest: every detail of the journey will have been taken care of by Fardream. I will arrive with no sense of any more time having passed than after a good night's sleep. even if the journey time has been as long as it takes to fly halfway around the world, my nutritive and excretory needs will have been taken care of with maximum discretion, and I will arrive not only with no symptoms of either jet-lag or fatigue or cabin-pressure bloating, but having not had to experience any of the exhausting tortures that present-day conscious travelling inflicts - from traffic and airport delays to bad coffee to cramped seats to airline food to screaming babies to fascist immigration officers to chain-smoking mafia taxis - none of it.

clearly, not everyone is going to feel as easy as me about being loaded into a coffin and treated as an animate parcel: the Fardream PR will have to play that aspect down in favour of concentrating the client's attention on the obvious benefits. but I bet there's thousands - tens, hundreds of thousands - of people like me who'd be perfectly happy to travel in this way, and leave the so-called romance of travel to those young and foolhardy enough to be able to embrace its trials as a character-building exercise, or something. once you'd ironed out little details like health and safety stuff, and worked out ways of overcoming those obvious concerns about people submitting to being treated just as cargo, and drumming up sufficient investment to capitalise it, I reckon the subsequent savings on all the expensive paraphernalia of keeping people comfortable en route - from seating to feeding to entertaining - would probably begin to make such an enterprise viable within quite a short period of time.

I must admit I'll miss the sight of that triple sunrise over the Asgaran methane cascades - but hey, it's bound to have a Travelodge - I could always stop off there for a couple of nights.

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