After failing to rally the masses to his cause back in December, The New York Times' Nick Bilton is at it again, whining about the Federal Aviation Administration's electronics on airplane rules. Last time, Bilton tried to point out the arbitrariness of the rules, explaining that, from a technical perspective, we can keep our electronics on as planes take off and land without interrupting operations. Not only was his reasoning suspect, but few people sympathized with the cause. (Except maybe Alec Baldwin.) This time, however, Bilton's taking a different angle, noting the increasing difficulty of enforcement as electronics become more ubiquitous. "This task is only going to become more complex for flight attendants as technology moves from your backpack or purse, to, well, you. Wearable computers on planes will be an enforcement nightmare," he writes. Again, we don't quite feel for this cause.
With even more gadgetry these days, flight attendants will have even more ridiculous policing in store, argues Bilton. Beyond e-readers and laptops, our airplane unfriendly stuff extends to our watches and soon our glasses, with Google's eventual eyewear release. We have already reduced flight attendants' jobs to that of an electronics enforcer, it will only get worse in this gadget-filled future. "Will the F.A.A. expect the flight crew to check wrists and examine glasses?" Bilton wonders. He then ends with the supposedly alarming statistic that he has lost an average of 51 minutes with his precious iPad on his last 30 flights.
Yes, we feel bad for the flight attendant who has to play mean babysitter to The New York Times writer in the aisle seat who hasn't turned off their smart-watch. But not because that job is futile, but because he or she has to deal with the obstinate electronics user who won't play by the admittedly "pure theater" rules, as The Atlantic's resident aviation expert Jim Fallows called them back in December. The rules might not make total sense, but if this really is about the poor flight attendant, why don't we just make his or her life easier and abstain using our devices for the 10 or 51 minutes? It's not like this is 51 minutes of that cattle herding that happens during the security process. It's 51 minutes during which Bilton can't read the iPad edition of the Times. That's not a punishment. In fact, some people would call that the height of luxury.