Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things I Thought We'd Have Figured Out by Now

Waiting to board a plane in Los Angeles and these two things struck me in rapid succession. Since I am traveling alone with no companion to serve as crash test dummy for my pointless banter, I have to turn to my trusted army of imaginary readers at WWDS and leave my thoughts in this blog posting.

First, it says here in this discarded newspaper (Dallas Morning News), that scientists don’t know how trees get water out of the ground. They’re pretty sure the roots are involved but can’t really say after that how it happens.

Really? We don’t know how trees work? Next time I need an example of a category of professionals who haven’t really made much progress in their field, I plan to invoke agrobiologists.

Second, I have heard a couple dozen announcements over the PA system since I arrived here at gate 48A but haven’t understood a single one. Aside from the universally poor quality of the audio that all public address systems strive to maintain, this one happens to be in an airport which means...multiple people enjoy making announcements simultaneously over the same speakers.

Let me tell you something. When I was in second grade and the teacher brought out a big box of wire and switches and lights and bells, me and Derek Perreault built a messaging system so that we could send silent, coded messages to each other by pressing a button and making a light blink. With two messengers and only one light, we had to devise a dampening mechanism to enforce control of the light. We put in a second circuit so that when one of us flipped a switch, the other guy couldn’t make the light blink.

That was in 1971. Me and Derek had about three and a half years of combined formal education counting Kindergarten. We figured it out between recess and lunch.

Now it’s 2010 and I am sitting in Amercan Airlines’ new terminal at one of the planet’s most high-tech airports. I am surrounded by nine gate agents with microphones that all flow through the same, crackly, overhead speakers and nothing prevents them from making simultaneous announcements. Why haven’t we figured this out?

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