On bullshit rules, and what that means for overall compliance

We are all now quite used to turning off our gadgets during takeoff and landing on airplanes, and most people just plain comply. But it turns out nobody really knows the reason for this rule; it’s still a rule because it’s always been a rule, which is a pretty stupid reason for a rule to persist.

As the linked article points out, it’s completely laughable to think that, on board nearly every flight, there’s not someone who forgot or refused to turn off their Kindle or phone or iPod or tablet during take-off and landing. And yet, as the article also notes, there are ZERO reported incidents related to passenger electronics. None. Nada.

When we have rules that are widely ignored, or that can be ignored because of the essentially zero chance of being caught and suffering reprisals, we weaken the power of rules that actually matter to protect us. Rules need to have good reasons, and those good reasons need to be available for review. Rules without good reasons just breed noncompliance and contempt, which is what is happening with the rules surrounding onboard electronics during takeoff and landing.

What’s hilarious is that despite a growing number of folks pointing out that this rule is bullshit, the airlines are doubling down. In the last year or so, I’ve started hearing the stewardesses insist that the devices be turned ALL THE WAY OFF, as opposed to laptop hibernation or iPhone “airplane mode.” Seriously? Do they really think people will do this? I’ve never ONCE turned my laptop off to fly; sleep’s all they get. My phone and iPad go into airplane mode, not off. My Kindle? You’ve got to be joking. Why bother? Remember, these are the same airlines that have wifi onboard.

On weekends with lots of amateur travelers, I’m sure compliance is high — but among serious road warriors, my guess is that these rules in general are widely ignored — or, if not ignored, then certainly not carefully followed. When it’s obvious there’s no point, why worry about whether or not your tablet is off? My guess is that essentially no frequent traveler bothers with the “completely off” variant at all despite the shrill insistance of the attendants.

Someday, I’ll tell my nieces about how air travel used to be an experience that folks enjoyed, and where the companies involved made everyone feel valued, and where the security measures made sense and had some chance of catching a motivated bad guy. And they, being intelligent young women, won’t believe a word of it.

Comments are closed.