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The Independent Culture

Middle-class problems: Travel

By Simmy Richman

There are not many people who would jump to the defence of the Singapore-based banker Anton Casey right now. Casey, you might have heard, received death threats for his Facebook posts about the "stench of public transport" and various other odious comments. Yet, without wishing to excuse the Porsche-driving expat for going public with his thoughts, this column contends that there is a little bit of Casey in all of us – and there's nothing like having to travel over a great distance to bring it out.

We set off at stupid o'clock still wrapped in the cocoon of sleep. We get to the airport/train station/port out of sorts, bleary-eyed and irritable, and then we encounter thousands of other people in a similar frame of mind with whom we are forced to literally rub shoulders with every step of the way until we finally reach the sanctuary of our seat.

Along the way, we will be asked to stand in line umpteen times; we will be frisked, interrogated and possibly ordered to remove our shoes (an act most Brits view as tantamount to a proposal of marriage). Once seated, small matters of personal space take on the significance of epic battles – mostly embodied in the fight for the armrest, when even the call of the bladder will not force you to give up that narrow plinth for fear you may never win it back. And let's not even go there on the politics of the seat-recline button!

Hell, as Sartre would have said if he'd gone by budget airline, is other passengers. And though travel broadens the mind, there is nothing like the getting there to make us quite so small-minded.