I was 11 when I saw my first Corvette. It was love at first sight. Yes, it had an anemic in-line six-cylinder engine, a chassis and suspension that dated from 1939 and a perfectly awful two-speed automatic transmission. But it was the most beautiful U.S.-made automobile I had ever seen.
The first Corvette I owned was a 10-year-old basket case that I painstakingly restored. I built a high-performance engine for it that was unusual because, when driven sensibly, it yielded 21 mpg.
My third Corvette had quite a powerful engine for the time, with a six-speed transmission. Thirty-two mpg at 75 mph was the norm.
I bring this all up to recount an incident at a shopping center a few years ago.
As I was getting into my car, a person walking by asked in a mocking tone of voice if my “hot rod” was fast. I asserted that it was. That led to a second jibe that it must be a real smog-hog polluter. I responded that actually it got 32 mpg. As I spoke, this person climbed into his 15 mpg pickup.
Over the past few months, there have been posts about the environmental responsibility of those who “flit here and there on carbon dioxide-spewing jets.” Still other discussions have questioned the financial wisdom of spending thousands, sometimes many thousands, of dollars on a vacation when there is rampant poverty and homelessness all around us.
I think my favorite was the response to one of the threads that rhetorically wondered how much better it would have been if that money had been given to the poor.
Grab a cup of coffee and let’s look at this.
Not rhetorically, all monies spent on vacation indeed benefit a lot of people. I’m thinking about the workers who built the ships and resorts, the people who staff these vacation destinations, the support staff in the operator’s back-office, sales, finance and marketing departments. It supports all the peripheral jobs that include food and beverage providers plus dozens of other functions I’m leaving out here.
And, yes, it supports travel professionals who sell the packages.
I find the environmental irresponsibility assertion even more spurious.
The reality is that a modern airliner produces about 100 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger, per kilometer traveled. A passenger car with an economy rating of 22 mpg produces about 250 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer traveled.
So someone flying to a destination with a companion is more environmentally responsible than the same two people driving a car, and many times that’s not even possible.
It’s like this: Travel is beneficial financially to those providing services, promotes improved quality of life for those traveling and has the potential to enhance international understanding.
I don’t expect commercial aviation to cease business in the next few years, and until that day comes and as long as I can help fulfill wishes and check items off bucket lists, I’ll be over here doing just that. I hope you will be, too.