Mintzberg Offers Ruminations on the Joy of Flying
Take a manager's manager and cramp him in a long metal box, hurl him through the sky several times a week for years on end and this book will eventually fall out of him.
That's what happened to Henry Mintzberg - prolific author, world-renowned thinker on strategy, and unhappy flyer.
In Why I Hate Flying: Tales for the Tormented Traveler, Mintzberg focuses his writing and analytical talents on probing an industry's ability to make people stand in line after line before being stuffed into airless cans that will then wait in several more lines.
Uncomfortable and Inefficient
Mintzberg eloquently conveys the frustrations we all feel with an uncomfortable and inefficient system. This is a keen observer's tale about being trapped in confined spaces, in closer proximity to other humans than any other life situation, and the thoughts that race through his head while he agonizes.
With his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, Mintzberg lets his fancy fly as he analyzes every nuance and pitfall of air travel.
Nothing is too minute for Mintzberg's kooky wrath. He gets great satisfaction from describing the seat belt demonstration as a "ritualistic dance," and pondering the people who deliver the accompanying "announcements" in a strange language known only to the airline people.
He expresses every dissension he can conjure against the business that has forced him to contort and suffer while he gets to his destination. Although he is disgruntled, the author seems to relish the horrors he has endured while aboard adversarial airlines.
In the chapter "Getting Looped," he writes, "Customer service is when they smile at you in the front office while trying to squeeze more money out of you in the back office." Tired of all the pestering he has endured from airline personnel while wallowing in his in-flight self-pity, he contemplates, "They are Mistermintzberging me to death. One day I am going to register as Mr. Jackass."
How Sardines Eat
Things for Mintzberg are tough, but not so bad that he cannot find the humor nestled within the airlines' bizarre pricing structure, frequent flyer miles ("Whenever anyone tries to bribe you with your own money, watch out"), telephone baggage quests, cockpit announcements ("This is your captain screaming"), the challenges of airplane food ("This must be how sardines eat"), airport planning and on-board flirtation.
After all this deep delving into the intricacies of air travel, some may question if this guy really hates flying as much as he says. Although he lampoons and lambastes air travel for the length of an entire book, he does seem to get great satisfaction from contemplating the inner workings of airlines and their people.
Perhaps Mr. Mintzberg secretly loves this stuff.