It’s the term that’s been bandied about ever since COVID “ended” and people could take their precious trips again. “Revenge travel.” Even now, the masses are still trying to make up for lost time that will never actually be regained. Days and years surrendered to a matter of circumstance that will likely come up again as the next few decades wear on, and human encroachment upon animal habitats ceases to let up despite unremitting warnings of climate catastrophe. But no, the logging will continue, the fossil fuels will keep emitting, plastic goods will still be manufactured, people will still want to buy their useless shit and have it delivered. And oh, they’ll still want to travel on a plane—one of the biggest offenders of CO2 emissions. But hey, at least the hoi polloi can’t afford to travel on a private jet—otherwise the Earth would have gone kabluey a long time ago vis-à-vis being uninhabitable to the masses.
The testament to human masochism and stupidity is perhaps best summed up by watching people fly commercial repeatedly. There is nothing more indicative of the average person’s willingness not only to subject themselves to torture, but to actually pay for it. The pathetic blubbering about being trapped inside for a year disgusted Andrew Zimmerman, a thirty-nine-year-old bachelor who relished hours upon hours spent alone. More time to jack off to porn that way, after all. Alas, it was as though his next-door neighbors had a radar for detecting the moment he would decide to leave the apartment, “just happening” to bump into him as he was locking his door or checking his mail or taking out the garbage. And what they all wanted to talk about was this: their desperate desire to travel. How they had taken the airlines’ urging to “buy plane tickets like you bought toilet paper” to heart and proceeded to stock up on various flight itineraries for the “rainy day” that was bound to come when COVID was “over.” Or rather, the government stopped caring so much about trying to contain it.
In the present, Andrew continued to live as he always had: in “lockdown mode.” As a coder, he didn’t have much need to leave the apartment. Nor was there anything “out there” that particularly beckoned to him, especially since everything he could ever want or need was either already contained within the premises or conjurable to his front doorstep. Why would he be foolish enough to fall for the trap of “losing himself” on a trip in order “find himself” anew? No, no. Andrew was very aware of and contented with who he was. Meanwhile, his neighbors proceeded to catch him up on how some of the trips they had planned back in 2020 were coming up this summer. Even though they had already gone on their little jaunts in 2021 and 2022, this was the first summer, they claimed, that they felt truly “out of the woods.” And when one “family man” neighbor, Graham Headley, said this exact phrase to him, his daughter blasted, as though it was pre-rehearsed, Taylor Swift’s song of the same name from her phone and beamed at Andrew like she was expecting a medal for making such an “intelligent” correlation. He wanted to smack her across the face. Of course, that would have been an inconceivable offense, so he restrained himself, instead focusing on Graham as he prattled on about their upcoming trip to Indonesia, which seemed like a very ambitious family vacation. If Andrew had two daughters and a wife, the last thing he would want to do is fly with them for a twenty-plus hour plane ride while they all bitched and moaned about being uncomfortable.
Andrew felt no sympathy for people who felt discomfort on planes. Because it was a voluntary decision they made. A willingness to be tortured under the misconception that “fun” and “self-discovery” would await them on the other side. Even if that were true, it surely couldn’t compensate for having to make the trek back to the side one already knew—the place they lived. And, of course, Graham and his ilk all talked a good game about being “liberal” and determined to “fight” climate change. But if they really wanted to, they wouldn’t take their “little” trips. And if they “had to,” the least they could do is pull a Greta Thunberg and take a fucking carbon-neutral boat to get across an ocean. But no, they were too fucking fragile to do such a thing. They were barely able to deal with a plane ride, let alone something as lengthy and uncomfortable as a boat ride. This, in the end, is what everything boils down to for manipulating the masses: comfort. Which is why Andrew was still floored by how many could put aside their dislike for inconvenience just so they could say they had been to London or Madrid or wherever the fuck. As far as Andrew was concerned, he would rather just Photoshop (a catch-all term for visual manipulation of any kind at this point) himself into these places than endure the hellacious tin can known as an aircraft.
So fascinated by the human inclination for pain and suffering as it related to travel was Andrew, that he started to research a bit more on the origins of commercial flying. Needless to say, in its germinal phase, before PanAm came along to make it all endlessly “glamorous,” the suffering endured was unfathomable. Planes would have to land regularly—even on already short journeys—to refuel, not to mention flying at lower altitudes because, at that time, cabins were unpressurized. As a result, the interior was even noisier and colder than one experiences it now. Nonetheless, early plane riders were willing and eager, with the increase in flight passengers going from six thousand in 1930 to five hundred thousand by 1934. Business was a-boomin’—and the ozone layer would never be the same again.
“Stupid fucking cunts,” Andrew muttered to himself while on a forced walk the next day to get some “fresh air.” His comment had been spurred by the sight of several contrails (or “chemtrails,” depending on who you ask). It was then he realized he shouldn’t be out in “public” a.k.a. the street. Mere minutes out of his apartment was enough to set him off, clearly. And then, because the contrails had set him off, his mind wandered to thinking about Freddie Laker, the asshole who really instigated the change that would make traveling commercially unbearable forever by founding Laker Airways. A “no frills” option for broke asses who shouldn’t be flying anyway. That’s the thing: people weren’t meant to fly, but broke-ass people really weren’t meant to. Flying too close to the sun will get you burned, and all that rot—especially if your plane skimped on safety costs so as to be able to offer that “low-fare” ticket. But nothing comes at a “low fare.” There is always a higher cost to be paid. In this instance, sacrificing all your sanity as you squeeze into the sardine can with a slew of other deluded fucks trying to convince themselves they can live large by taking a vacation. Even if it turns out to be one of those where you’ll need a vacation from the vacation. What did it matter so long as you had photos that “proved” you had been happy with your decision in that moment?
As far as Andrew was concerned, however, “revenge travel” provided nothing but revenge on oneself. Not just for how horrible and inhumane it was to ride on a plane in the current epoch (in addition to being molested and treated like a criminal at airport security checkpoints), but because everyone was accelerating their own ultimate discomfort: dealing with an inhospitable planet. Or, at least, one that would only be hospitable to those who could afford “comforts” that were previously unnecessary to living on Earth, like underground bunkers.
Toward the end of the summer, Andrew received a number of postcards from three of his neighbor “pods” that were on vacation, wondering how he had ever given them the idea that he gave a shit about anything they did, let alone their faux-pompous whereabouts. However, something about the third postcard did give him some satisfaction. Apparently, Graham had been hospitalized and they would be staying a bit longer on their trip while he recovered and would Andrew be so kind as to keep watering the plants every so often? Why, sure, he thought. I’ll water them as I relish how glorious it is to never go anywhere or have a self-created “need” to fly on a plane. The premier deathtrap in every way imaginable.