January 11, 2018

Horse 2364 - The American Way To "Commute"?

I saw a full bus side advert the other day for American Airlines; which had a picture of a lady asleep in what looked like the comfiest airline seat/bed that I've ever seen and the advert had the tagline: "The American Way To Commute".

This is one of those occasions where someone was doing some paradigm shifting without using the clutch and my brain was metaphorically shooting sparks out the side. This advert was so unbelievably overflowing with wrongability that you might as well forget about trying to catch it all in buckets because there was enough of the stuff to sink the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier.

How art thee wrong? Let me count the ways.

1. Commute (the right way to use the word)
A commuter is someone who commutes. The word commute means to lessen or to reduce. A mass murderer who is facing the death penalty might have their sentence commuted to life in prison. A petty criminal who shows contrition might have their sentence commuted from time in prison to doing community service. Likewise the term "commuter" came about because people who bought season tickets, be they weekly, monthly, quarterly or even yearly (yes this was a thing), had their fare commuted to a lesser amount because they bought more travel. A person who bought a weekly rail ticket might have had their fare commuted from the full five days that they were going to work, to say the equivalent fare of three and a half days of travel.

2. Commute (the wrong way to use the word)
A commuter is someone who commutes. They have had the price of their travel commuted from an amount to a lesser amount. Somewhere in the history of urban public transport, people mangled the word to mean someone who simply travelled forth and back from work. This, rater ludicrously, eventually came to also apply to people who drive to work despite the fact that they do not have the price of their travel commuted to any lesser amount. Both the price of petrol and the associated tax are directly aligned with usage. I should point out here that since the introduction of the Opal Card system in Sydney, because an amount is deducted from people's Opal accounts at the end of every journey, this has in effect killed off the commuter in Sydney. Granted that there are discounts beyond the eighth trip and there is a weekly cap but if you are someone like me who always hits the cap, the fare is never commuted to a lesser amount.

If this is true, then even if we use the wrong definition of the word, then unless American Airlines does take people to and from work, then it's fair to say that there are no commuters who use American Airlines in Australia. There is a select number of people who fly in and fly out of the mining towns in Western Australia; so under this definition, there are some commuters who use aeroplanes in Australia, although American Airlines doesn't provide this service.

3. Commute (the wrong way to be wrong)
If we ignore part one and part two, then in what possible world does American Airlines think that there could be commuters using their services in Australia. As far as I am aware, they operate out of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and fly to the west coast of the United States as well as Hawaii. I'm not sure if American Airlines is aware of this but the Pacific Ocean is actually kind of big. I don't think that it's even possible to fly to Hawaii in less than twelve hours, which means to say that it is impossible to fly forth and back to work if you're home was in Australia and your workplace was in Hawaii in less than a day.
Unless you have access to time travel, or are able to manipulate the laws of time and space such that you can leave before you arrive, wake up before you go to bed, and somehow manage to fit in an eight hour working day in the middle of all that, then the tagline "The American Way To Commute" is nonsensical as applied to Australians.

4. The Metaphor
Nonsense aside, the advert shows a lady asleep in one of those weird bed things that American Airlines obviously has. If you are someone who falls asleep on the bus, then you're likely not going to be awake when the advert passes by. Maybe this advert is supposed to evoke feelings of wistfulness and wanderlust in a bleary eyed person as they stand out in the cold waiting for a bus and that's perfectly sensible but this is yet another one of those occasions where the marketing department did not think things through.

From what I've seen of America, the actual American way to commute is to sit in your car for long periods of time, doing six miles an hour, or perhaps sitting on a subway train and hoping that you don't get mugged. Okay, that's hyperbole and parody but as I stand on yet another late running and overcrowded train in Sydney, I kind of hope that "the American way to commute" is to put on some blue tights and red underpants on the outside and fly like Superman - he fought for "Truth, Justice, and The American Way (to commute?)"

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