I know, of course, that nothing really is in my own hands. When I’m driving myself around town I could be run over by a semi, when I’m walking I could be knocked over by a runaway car – no need to continue in this vein. You get the picture.
Despite this, I feel like I’m generally in control of my safety and well-being. When we travel, though, we turn that over to complete strangers for the duration of the trip. We trust the airline employees, from the mechanics to the pilots, to provide a safe flight. We trust the subway drivers, the taxi drivers, the bus drivers, the train conductors … we put our faith in their competence and their regard for safety.
When we went on our first cruise in 2004 I pondered at length about how the ship floats. I still don’t understand the physics. But had I thought about it I would have found it more likely that the boat would sink because of the improbability of the tons of steel, humans and food floating on water than that the captain would be negligent. In fact the only thought I gave to the captain was at his reception where we got free champagne.
We leave (in 63 days!) for our Mediterranean cruise. Our ship sails to Santorini. A passengerless ship rests abandoned at the bottom of the sea by Santorini right now. The captain and crew have been charged with negligence. Two people are still missing.
The 1600 people on board had faith in the captain’s abilities. Up until the ship started sinking that is.
Certainly this doesn’t have any impact on my travel plans. It does, however, throw into question how much I take for granted. I assume that people given the authority to transport travelers have the skills, the equipment and the dedication to get their charges safely to their destination. This just isn’t always the case, whether we’re talking about psychotic taxi drivers in Rome or captains whose ships sink.
When we choose to travel though, we accept risk. Whether it’s risk of terrorism, mugging or capsizing , we take that risk when we venture outside of our homes. In light of the unimaginably frightening experience the Sea Diamond’s passengers experienced this week I can’t just flippantly say travel is worth the risks. But really, if it weren’t, we wouldn’t do it. What I think is important right now is that we’re aware of potential risks. And that we realize that our safety is in someone else’s hands – someone human, like us.
All that said, I’m still annoyed by MSNBC’s plugged in prompt: Discuss: Are you less inclined to cruise? in their article, Greek cruise ship sinks after hitting rocks. Why must the media reaction be to suggest that the modern American traveler is a scaredy-cat who will lock themselves into their armchair at the first hint of danger? I’m still going on this trip. Sure, maybe I’ll have a moment or two of unease when I board the massive vessel. But honestly, it’s more because I swear I don’t understand how those things float.