By John Frenaye Travel columnist
updated 12/27/2006 12:28:03 PM ET 2006-12-27T17:28:03
COMMENTARY

Dennis Miller does it. And Andy Rooney has been doing it for umpteen years on “60 Minutes.” My kids seem to do it almost daily. Now it’s my turn. I’m going to let loose and rant. About breastfeeding on airplanes. About sketchy imams. About cabbies who can’t abide liquor. And about a couple of other things that I think are crazy. Feel free to join me.

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I am not sure where political correctness ends and stupidity begins anymore. I am not sure I ever knew. But what I do know is that everywhere I look, people are cowering in corners for fear of insulting or offending someone else. Recently Macy’s made the news for is allowing its employees to say “Merry Christmas,” but I notice Best Buy is holding out for the more politically correct “Happy Holidays” and Target is giving the Salvation Army the boot. Retailers may be leading the politically correct crowd, but the travel industry is right behind them. Here are four things that simply leave me reeling.

Imams in Minneapolis
A group of Muslim imams prayed publicly in the gate area at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport last month (declining to make use of a designated prayer room), engaged in several types of suspicious behavior (buying one-way tickets, paying cash, changing seats, requesting seat-belt extenders when their size didn’t require them), refused to obey the orders of a flight crew, and so were deplaned and held for questioning. I say good move on the part of US Airways, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and the FBI.

It now appears that the group posed no threat to public safety, and I am sorry the imams were inconvenienced, but come on! Had these gentlemen not seen any news broadcast in the last five years? Did they really think their behavior would cause no alarm? Which red flag did they not see?

Now comes an interesting development. After the imams were deplaned, they cried that their civil rights had been violated, threatened a lawsuit, and called for a boycott of US Airways. Ah, now it is becoming clearer: This is more about money than about freedom of expression. Now they have graciously offered to meet with the airline to discuss an out-of-court settlement. Where is our collective brain? Doesn’t anyone see that this is all about money? I say, let them have their boycott, and US Airways will have my business. Cave in and I just might call for a boycott! Check out the Tripso Forums for more on this topic.

Muslim cabbies in Minneapolis
What? Minneapolis again? A group of Muslim cabbies has said that it will not transport passengers from the airport if they are carrying alcohol. Neither will they take them to a liquor store or a bar. Such ordinary cabbie duties are apparently against their religion.

Come on! If I am a vegetarian, I do not go to work at the Outback Steakhouse. If I do not want to transport liquor, I do not become a cab driver. Man, if I had Bill Gates-type money, I would put a workforce in that airport handing out bottles of hooch that say “Welcome to Minneapolis/St. Paul.” I would do it for every arriving passenger and I would do it for six months. That might change those cabbies’ tune.

But nothing so drastic is needed. A taxi cab is a public conveyance, and cabbies are regulated in most cities. So the solution is simple: If a cabbie refuses a fare because of his own religious scruples, yank the license! There’s more on this topic in the Tripso Forums.

Breastfeeding on airplanes
Oh my! Imagine the gall of a woman attempting to nourish her child on an airplane. Such behavior should be dealt with severely and swiftly. And it was.

Thanks to a horribly wrong call on the part of a Freedom Airlines flight attendant (ironic, huh?) operating on a Delta Air Lines flight (I am not going on a code-share rant—yet), a woman was deplaned for breastfeeding her child on the airplane. Mind you, the “porno show” was covered with a blanket, the mother was in a window seat, the middle seat was empty, and the father was in the aisle seat. But this did not stop the flight attendant from giving mother and child the heave-ho. I’m sure that same flight attendant would have been the first to squawk if the child began to wail when the pressure built up in her ears. But since it seems anyone can now inflict their own ideas of morality on anyone else, this decision flew—without mom and the baby!

My solution: Send this overzealous flight attendant to sensitivity training, or hand her a pink slip. Agree? Disagree? Speak your piece in the Tripso Forum on this topic.

Resistance to airline safety measures
Hello, folks. Hello? Anyone home? Remember that sunny day in September 2001? We are indeed at war. Perhaps it’s not the most effective war, but there are people intent on hurting the U.S. out there, and the airline sector is a huge target. That is a fact. And while the TSA is one of the most inept law enforcement organizations I have ever witnessed, I must say they are doing better. We are marginally safer than we were on September 10, 2001. So why, when new safety measures are introduced, do they meet such resistance?

The Trusted Traveler Program — a great idea given adequate background checks. But, oh no, that would be an invasion of privacy. I say: Invade all you want if it makes me safer. The Body Scan X-Ray Program — another great idea. But no, someone might be able to see that you have a penis or a pair of breasts (or both, I guess). People, they are not filming this for YouTube! The screener is in another part of the building, and the novelty will wear off after the first hour, I assure you. Hey, if someone wants to take a peek and I am safer — go for it! We are talking about this topic in the Tripso Forums, as well.

OK, that’s enough for now. But these are just four of my recent rants. There are many more. Like, why are the cruise lines taking the heat on norovirus when it is present all over the place? Why isn’t it called the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Virus? And why are the airlines making it so hard to redeem my “loyalty” points? And why aren’t people supporting New Orleans like they should? I’ve got a million of them.

But how about you? What’s got you in a lather? I would love to know. Just send me an e-mail, and I might use it to launch a future column. Until the next time, and with many thanks to Larry the Cable Guy, I wish you all a Merry Nondenominational Winter Holiday and a Safe and Happy January 1st!

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