Before I board a plane . . .

IT USED TO BE that when I planned a trip, the last thing I thought about was getting to the airport. And the only time I spent worrying about the plane crashing was in the odd moment as I sat at the gate, waiting for a flight to be announced. I might toy with the idea briefly, then dismiss it as statistically so remote a possibility that I just couldn't waste time worrying about it.

Both my father and my brother were Air Force pilots, and, since childhood, flying seemed to me a very natural way to get from place to place, continent to continent. In fact, I've always been grateful that I live in an era when air travel is so accessible and, relatively speaking, hassle-free.

I guess that must sound like "the good old days"—the days before 9/11 and the dramatic changes that have impacted travel. The long lines, the long waits, the searches, the tensions, the warnings on the news, the reports of terrorism around the world. In the dozen or so flights I've made in the last year, I've thought many times that travel just isn't fun anymore. But worse than that, planning a trip for many people has become a fearful time of weighing the odds, a process of elimination in which they decide on which is the least dangerous way to get somewhere. Some ask, "Should we even make a trip this year? Is it too risky?"

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December 2, 2002

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