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Distance, real and imaginary

Fat person seating in Campinas airport.  

I flew Azul to Campinas.  There are lots of flights there because Campinas is the hub for Azul Airlines.  I could catch a 5:58 am flight and avoid the trouble and expense of an additional night in Campinas, while still having the whole workday on Thursday.  By the logic of travel time and maybe even expense, Campinas is often closer to Brasília than it is to São Paulo.  You can fly to the Campinas airport of Viracopos in a little over an hour at the cost of less than $100 if you plan ahead and get a promotional ticket.  Driving from São Paulo in the usual traffic will take longer and cost you more if you have to hire a car. The trip to the airport from my house in Brasília takes only fifteen minutes and the taxi cost just $15.  I think my colleague in São Paulo had to wake up earlier to meet me.  It makes you reconsider the concept of distance. The real measure of distance should be the time, money and discomfort required to arrive. 

That is why distance is something that can change, something we can change and adapt.  When a new road opens or a new airline connects, distance changes in a practical sense.  Brazil is a big country.  Measured in square miles, it is about the size of the U.S.; measured in practical distance, it is much larger.  It takes longer and costs more to move yourself of your stuff from one point to another.  Because of our great freight rail and generally good system of highways, right down to county truck roads that bring are paved with asphalt right to gates of most farms, our products move relatively efficiently.  We don’t appreciate that because it is largely unseen and we take it for granted.   We can also move around our country easily by air and road. Although we often complain about these things, we are very well served.  Brazil needs to build infrastructure, especially freight rail and improved water transport.   This is what is really holding back complete development and has been a problem since the beginning.  When you solve infrastructure problems, most other things fall into place and until you do all you have is growth in fits and starts.  The only real way to increase prosperity is to increase productivity.  Good infrastructure does that. 

In effect, Azul has moved Brasília closer to Campinas, just as the overcrowded highways around São Paulo has moved it farther from São Paulo.  Of course, you have to take into account the time you have to hang around in airports.  All the various security checks have added many hundreds of miles of virtual distance to most trips. It would be interesting to see a distance/time/trouble map with the relationships among places. 

Azul in Brazil was founded in 2008 by David Neeleman, the same guy who founded JetBlue in the U.S.  By a quirk of fortune, he was born in São Paulo and is a citizen of Brazil as well as of the United States.  Azul has a fairly efficient system with low cost flights, using Campinas as a hub.  There are two things I didn’t like.  One was that you have to leave from Terminal 2 in Brasília.  This is much less comfortable than the main terminal.  They also use planes that have very little overhead space.  I travel very light, but not everybody else does and it was hard to find space for my backpack.    

The picture above is self-explanatory. It is another step on the road to declaring everything a disability.  I am not sure I would like this if I was a fat person. Look at that symbol. It kind of resembles a fat person, but it certainly is not flattering.  This is the first time I have seen an extra-wide seat.


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