EDITOR'S COLUMN: Stay home, don't go home for holidays

I won’t be home for Christmas.

Don’t keep the home fires burning.

Over the river and through the snow — forget it.

I’ve always wondered, why don’t people stop going home for the holidays? Thanksgiving and Christmas take up two days on the calendar but two months of preparation and travel. If you have to go home again, why not do it in the summer when days are long and the air is warm and you can drive there?

Fortunately, I don’t have to go home for the holidays. Everyone I know lives within 30-minutes, including the ferry ride. But I can’t help but feel compassion for those millions who — due to some holiday homing instinct — put themselves through torture just to get somewhere on the one or two days on the calendar when everyone else is following the same homing instinct.

My experience with airline travel consists of so few trips that they can be counted on one hand. All I remember is the misery. You’re in a flying tube with your fate in the hands of one person, and you’re surrounded by coughing, wheezing strangers. There are people walking up and down narrow aisles handing out pillows and booze, light is poor, seating is cramped, food is lousy, windows are tiny, and you can’t get out. People on death row have better accommodations. And we’re paying for the pleasure of flying. At least on death row, the state is picking up the tab.

They say that since Sept. 11, flying is even worse. Lines are longer, you and your stuff are X-rayed, scanned and frisked, your shoes are sniffed by a dog, and when you get on the plane you’re still being protected by 100-pound unarmed flight attendants.

Millions of people move so far away from home that they feel they have to fly back for the holidays, but they should remember why they moved away in the first place. Most likely, they wanted to get away from those people with whom they couldn’t be in the same room without disagreeing, arguing and stomping out in opposite directions. Now, they arrive home from thousands of miles away for the holidays, everyone gets hugged, and minutes later they’re fighting again. They actually start looking forward to the flight home, as an escaped prisoner at a festive holiday family argument might miss the tranquility of death row.

My advice to those who live far from home: Stay home over the holidays and start your own Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions. Have some neighbors over. Send your loved ones an e-mail and tell them you’ll be home next summer. You’ll be driving so you can see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet, which you can board without being frisked and which you can stop anywhere along the way when you feel hungry or want to stretch your legs. There’s nothing merrier than Christmas in July.

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