In his book Route 66 A.D. Aussie Tony Perrottet says on page 207, “….contrived bureaucratic time-wasting is another of the great perennials of travel.” This sentence got my full attention, and I began to think about how much wasted time is spent planning and then doing travel.
Recently for example, we had one hour to get from one terminal to another in San Francisco to catch an international flight to Tahiti. Our first flight was delayed for 2 hours due to fog. There would not be another flight for 4 days, so we had to make this one. We were also meeting family there and taking a cruise that left Pape’ete in 2 days. We literally ran to the terminal. There was an incredibly long holiday line waiting to get through TSA. We would not have made our flight if 2 groups of people had not taken pity on us and let us move ahead of them in line. Our gate was just the other side of TSA. For some unknown reason, the TSA crew that might have been angry about the government shutdown decided to make an example of me. They flagged my bag for inspection, and the agent took every item in it out one by one. He stared at each item as if it was unique and fascinating. He chastised me for every bit of food including some Kind bars that I carry for emergencies because I’m on a special diet. “Ah,” he concluded when he found the real problem in my bag, my camera. That camera that I have taken through TSA uncountable times in that very bag without being questioned about it all of a sudden became the focus of his attention. He told me that I had to take it out each time and put it in a separate tray for inspection. Despite the time this took, we did make the flight….barely. Bureaucratic time-wasting for sure.
Perrottets’s book is really about his travels with his pregnant wife through Italy, Greece, and Egypt. He tells the considerable history of each place interestingly. I was hooked at the very beginning when he informed me that Rome was the world’s first megacity. He called it an urban monster and said that its population at the Empire’s height was 1.25 million people. No city up to that time had ever had so many inhabitants. I believe the next city to have a population of a million was London in the 19th century. Rome was so enormous that bureaucrats, engineers, and rulers had to become great city planners by necessity. That’s why they excelled in road construction, aqueduct building, and other projects like dwelling construction and food production. I had never thought of this before when I studied Rome. The Romans were also the world’s first great travelers. Because they created a vast Empire that completely controlled the Mediterranean and far beyond it, they wanted to see what that Empire actually looked like. Greece and Egypt were their favorite destinations.