The Search For Absurdity

You used to be able to smoke on planes. Insane.


I’m sitting here on a plane. The seatbelt sign is off, so only one sign is illuminated: the “No Smoking” sign. That got me thinking.

First of all, how freaking weird is it that there still are “No Smoking” signs on airplanes? When is the last time anyone was ever allowed to smoke on a plane? (The answer is 1998 in the U.S.) You might chalk it up to a lot of planes simply being older, retrofitted relics. Except even newer planes still have the “No Smoking” signs.

(And yet they don’t still have ashtrays. Which I vividly remember from my youth — playing with them in the disgusting ways that little kids do. Ewwww.)

Pre-takeoff videos also still mention that it’s illegal to smoke (and, of course, to tamper with smoke detectors in the bathrooms). So I’m left to conclude that inclusion of the signs is some bit of mandated regulation. Yet they’re not at every table in restaurants where it’s also now illegal to smoke.

Anyway, the “No Smoking” signs are now increasingly weird. Because of course you can’t smoke on a plane. I mean you’re flying 30,000+ feet in the air in a metal tube filled with pressurized air. Oh, and hundreds of other people. Newsflash: you’re also not allowed to release poison gas into the airplane while in flight.

And yet, you could smoke on an airplane just 20 years ago. It’s completely absurd.

So that got me thinking: what else is it that we as a society tolerate right now that can possibly be so absurd?

Yes, this is real. (image: @justindrew)

It’s difficult to come up with anything. Tape delays on television? Dial tones? Our current remote controls? Pulling our phones out of our pockets to check them every two seconds?

None of these are nearly as absurd as smoking on planes. But I have to believe there is something out there right now that we’ll look back upon as crazy. I think it’s just incredibly hard to see it in real time because we’re so used to our current ways.

There were undoubtedly a ton of people who hated others smoking on airplanes decades ago, but they put up with it. Because well, that’s the way it is (was).

So what else do we tolerate right now without thinking to much about it simply because “that’s the way it is”? Again, there has to be something. Actually, I’d guess there must be many things. Things which in a decade or two will seem absurd to our future selves and our children.

Surely, there’s a tech angle here. If we can figure out the things we do that are absurd, someone undoubtedly can come up with a tech-based solution to open all of our eyes. And hopefully to change things. That interests me.