Opinion

The disconnect of airplane mode

20160302_165138Four and one-half hour plane rides make you do funny things like blog from 34,000 feet. They can also make you think of all kinds of other things. This is probably a result of surrendering control of your destiny to a complete stranger for this length of time.

For instance, after experiencing extended “Airplane mode” when it comes to portable devices, I feel it is totally the wrong name. To me, airplane mode implies that things will work just fine when you’re in the airplane. Since you basically lose connectivity when in airplane mode, in order to avoid a negative connotation with the word “airplane,” I suggest we rename it “Disconnect mode.”

When we’re allowed to be connected in airplanes, then and only then should it be considered airplane mode. Anything else is just disconnect mode. As it stands now all you can do is watch already downloaded movies or play games already on your device or just type like I’m doing now.

So many of us forget to put our devices in airplane mode that I initially wondered if anything bad would happen. But, then I imagined that if this directive was really critical to all passengers’ safety, eventually technology would provide for some sort of auto-monitoring capability.

“Would the passenger in seat 24B please turn his iPhone to disconnect mode.”

This sounds much better than, “Would the passenger in seat 24B please turn his iPhone to airplane mode.” As it stands, passengers who fail to place their devices in airplane mode potentially pose a danger to the aircraft they are traveling in. Disconnect mode is much more easily remembered if passenger safety is truly foremost in the minds of airline carrier officials.

So, I think it’s confusing, but some would say the genie is already out of the bottle with respect to the finality of living with airplane mode. Our devices all have airplane mode and not disconnect mode. And I think that’s crappy.

If we’re in a bullet train and there is a chance of personal electronic devices fouling up critical communications, it would seem funny if the passengers were instructed to switch their devices to airplane mode. Why not have “Bullet train mode”? Or “Uber mode? Or “Light rail mode?” When we eventually have teleportation, we could foreseeably have “Teleportation mode” for our portable electronic devices.

See how “Airplane mode” is just not the best blanket term for these disconnect scenarios?

“Hey Marge, do I still use Airplane mode in the bullet train?”

“I’m not sure, dear. There isn’t any flight attendant to query.”

“Why don’t they just have simple disconnect mode, Marge?”

“I don’t know, Herb. These things are designed by programmers and not actual users. Plus, Bob Skelley was not consulted.”

Disconnect mode is the logical alternative.

Disconnect mode makes more sense on a rudimentary basis, too.

When we’re in airplanes for 4-1/2 hours, what we should be doing is disconnecting for a while. Life is so hectic nowadays and we’re always trying to make use of each available minute of every day. Being off the grid during these stretches is not the worst thing that can happen to us.

Some of us snooze and snore. Some of us get out the old print media and catch up on the vestiges of 20th century journalism. Some of us just think about nothing at all. Some of us think of stuff that comes out from the back of our minds when we’re not racing to email or text someone.

Disconnect mode should be a way of life in terms of healthier living when aboard airplanes. Let our minds just be and flow back and forth to the things they want to (instead of always bearing down mentally in the digital sense.) You’re probably also more likely to get up, stretch and move about the cabin, too, which is good for you.

Do you ever notice how few passengers actually take the Captain’s suggestion to do so? You know, the ones who pay for Wi-Fi and are head deep, hunched over into their devices and on the way to their very own repetitive stress injury.

Did I tell you that your mind would be more open to these healthy suggestions from the Captain if you are in disconnect mode? Well, I just did.

Tune in again next long plane ride when I riff on how to navigate the laboratories, I mean, lavatories, on modern aircraft. I know, I know. You just can’t wait.

 

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