Life Before Jet Planes and Ash Clouds

A passenger waits at a deserted Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, Thursday, April, 15, 2010. All flights from the airport have been canceled, air traffic across Britain has been disrupted because of ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison) AP Photo/Peter Morrison

We have a rule at our house that goes like this: If everything else is going fine, the toilet breaks - the meaning being that the things we take most for granted seem to fail only when we least expect it.

So when that Icelandic volcano shut down air travel across Europe, it was not just the last thing we would have expected; it caused those of a certain age (me) to reflect on life before jet planes.

And frankly, the memories were not all bad!

In today's mania for instant gratification, fast food, fast travel, and news as it happens, we don't just over-schedule, we get results too fast to process.

When it took us longer to get there, at least we had time to think about why we went.

My grandkids believe everything in America is about an hour or so away. Earlier generations appreciated how broad and diverse our country is, because they had to travel through it, not glance at it from 30,000 feet.

Before jet planes made it possible for politicians to fly home every week to raise money, campaigns were a lot cheaper.

And when they had to stay in Washington, they actually got to know each other, and (you may not believe this part) they got to know what was in the legislation they were voting on.

And besides, there are alternatives to air travel.

I saw in The New York Times that Monty Python actor John Cleese hired a taxi in Oslo to drive him 900 miles to Brussels, where he caught a train home to London.

The taxi cost $5,000 - but there was no charge for carry-on luggage!
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    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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