The airline ticket is a curious beast. Itâ€™s yours and yours alone, and unlike a ticket for a music or sports event, it canâ€™t be sold or even given away. You hand it to someone else and it turns to dust. You can rebook or get credit for a future flight through the airline, but unless youâ€™ve paid the top fare the exchange costs are hefty â€” typically about $100 per person.
“But to walk through the doors of a modern airport is to enter into a world of wonders, where normal rules and laws donâ€™t hold sway. And itâ€™s not just the laws of gravity that have been repealed here. Many economic laws donâ€™t apply, either: A four-day car rental is more than a seven-day rental. A one-way trip is more than a round trip. A 45-minute flight to a small airport in the next state costs more than flying clear across the country. Amazing and weird! Just those old roadside attractions touting freakish quirks of magnetism.
Then thereâ€™s the boarding pass I hold in my hand at the T.S.A. portcullis. This is where our power of make-believe needs to be strongest. We present our IDs and boarding passes to the pre-screener, who studies them for minor discrepancies with a gravity suggesting that our documents are the sole barrier keeping Islamo-Fascists out of the cockpit.
We all go along with it. Never mind that my â€œboarding passâ€ is something that I printed out from my computer the night before â€” in fact, the sort of thing easily ginned up by a moderately adept 12-year-old with Photoshop. (Last year a graduate student created an online boarding pass generator so that anyone could print out a fake boarding pass with a few clicks of a mouse. The site vanished after the creator was visited by unamused F.B.I. agents.)”
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