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If there's a general theme to this year for me, it's my increasing understanding of the Inverted Bell Curve of Life.

You're probably familiar with the concept of a bell curve. It's the physical manifestation of a distribution where most of the data points are grouped closer to the middle, so the general shape looks like a bell. Hence the name. Because mathematicians and statisticians are known for embarking on creative flights of fancy while naming things.

For me, most things in life follow a similar bell curve. Except, instead of starting a one point, heading upward, leveling and then dropping off, mine starts out heads down and climbs back up. Hence the "inverted" part. Because, that's what "inverted" means. And because I really didn't want to call it "a line that starts out, goes down and then comes back up again."

I got to see all this in action recently when the lovely Mrs. Smith and I had to take a trip that featured both flying and driving. Not overseas or anything, but long enough that any pluses and minuses of all our modes of transportation were going to come to the front pretty quickly. Kind of a scientific experiment, with us as both the control and the variable.

So I start trying to sell myself on the idea that, hey, flying's not so bad. It'll get us there more quickly, we can relax, I've got a backpack full of books and magazines to read, and, worst case, I can just take a mid-day nap and not feel guilty about it.

The problem is, I kind of hate to fly. And not just because I'm sealed in something much heavier than air hurtling thousands of feet above the ground in an act that just, frankly, can't be right.

That aside, thanks to current, probably necessary security measures, flying these days seems to involve a lot of standing around being presented with dire warnings of the consequences of dastardly acts. Like, trying to carry more than 3.4 ounces of liquid or fingernail clippers onto an airplane. In your stocking feet. While trying to hold up your pants, because apparently your belt represents a threat to air safety.

Next up is trying to squeeze into a seat which has been designed, at great expense, by incredibly credentialed engineers, to be uncomfortable to anyone of any size. And fed pretzels that are the very definition of the ironic complaint about some dishes, mainly that "this is terrible and the portion is so small."

The thing is, flying works. It gets you from one place to the next, largely faster than you could get there any other way short of a science fiction novel. And it's safe. Safer than driving, which is typically your other option, or, basically, any other choice you've got, short of just not going anywhere in the first place.

So we start off sort of positive, drop (metaphorically, thankfully) off and then climb back out just in time to land. Up, way down, then up again.

And, just as a comparison (or, because we had to), we got to drive about six hours before we did the whole flying deal again.

Now, who doesn't love a road trip? A chance to see America up close, spend time with a loved one and take part in the time-honored tradition of the open highway?

Except, about two hours in, you begin to realize they just don't put bathrooms as close together as they used to (or something like that), whatever parts of the road being driven on by mad men or idiots (that's anyone driving faster or slower than you, respectively) have been ripped up and folks just don't seem to be as committed to washing their hands at a rest stop as you'd think they ought to be, particularly before they grab hold of that door handle.

And then, mercifully you're there, and you got to see some great scenery and you don't have to play Luggage Roulette to see if your bag would be joining you on the trip.

So, up, down, then back up again. And that's not even considering that Pecan Log Roll or giant pretzel you snagged at the truck stop. Start high, experience a bell-full of unpleasantness, pull out again at the very end. The Inverted Bell Curve of Travel, a mirror for the Inverted Bell Curve of Life.

And if you have any doubts, let's talk about what you experience when you have kids.

Commentary on 08/17/2018

Print Headline: Up-and-down living

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