A few days ago in the Times, Paul Krugman wrote:
Some years ago — I think it was 2015 — I got a quick lesson in how easy it is to become a horrible person. I was a featured speaker at a conference in São Paulo, Brazil, and my arrival flight was badly delayed. The organizers, worried that I would miss my slot thanks to the city’s notorious traffic, arranged to have me met at the airport and flown directly to the hotel’s roof by helicopter.
Then, when the conference was over, there was a car waiting to take me back to the airport. And just for a minute I found myself thinking, “What? I have to take a car?”
Krugman then says his normal conveyance is almost always the subway.
Krugman’s “confession” was both amusing and thought-provoking…for me, at least. Because, dare I say probably more often than Krugman, I have occasionally had the experience of riding, floating, soaring in glam vehicles. They have included multiple limos, one seaplane, an eight-seater prop plane traversing the South Pacific, several big boats, a private LearJet and a 727 reconstructed into living quarters upholstered in white leather.
So can luxurious transportation become a psychological necessity, the deprivation of which can make people descend into a circle of hell Dante overlooked, the Eleventh Circle, the Eternal Sulks?
Krugman escaped, I think because he’s supremely intelligent and has a terrific sense of humor, especially about himself. But have I escaped?
Yes, because I never got there in the first place. What I did get — on ritzy transport — was the pleasurable excitement of a child who is easily entertained or, on some occasions, the deadpan incredulity of a student of life, bred with a satirist’s soul. If limos had become my standard mode of transport, I’d lose the sense of exquisite comfort of riding in a car with infinite knee room. Ooh. Even typing that stretches my legs in muscle memory.
That temporal delight would have morphed into, “What? I have to take the subway?” My soul forever corrupted by a feeling of deprivation? In other words, I could have become a horrible person.
I’m not, though. I lack the requisite character.