If you want to know what the future will look like in the United States, book an airline flight. Just go online and watch all those little popup ads blink and compete for your attention like billboards on a freeway, all equally desperate to secure your hard earned cash.
It's only after you pay for your expensive economy ticket that will you be informed that your flight was oversold. That means your paid for seat hasn't actually been assigned.
In fact you don't actually have a seat. And no, you can't upgrade by paying out more cash.
It turns out that all the Internet travel companies really wanted was your hard earned money. They got that, so now it'll be up to you to sort out the pesky little details like where you'll sit or whether you'll even be allowed to board.
That's because these days you don't get what you paid for. You just get what corporations give you, and you must fight for the rest.
All those famous Internet travel companies all bartered for your business, but once you hit the purchase button the romance was dead. The glamour of the 1960s jet age is as lost to us as Atlantis now. It's 2016 and battery-hen travel is what's really in vogue.
The ground staff smile as you plead for the seat you actually paid for. With one keyboard stroke they can end your misery or prolong it indefinitely.
That means, despite what they tell you, that you're not in control of your destiny these days. That means your money just doesn't count as much as it did.
Even up front in the premier seats things are looking decidedly less than deluxe these days, as the rot from cattle-class grows and grows and puts the squeeze on everything else. Drinks were once complimentary and included in the ticket price as were meals, but now you must pay and pay or just get water and peanuts. Even bonobos enjoy better daily odds.
At the gates stand all the tired, stressed bodies that have ballooned thanks to trans-fats, corn syrup and food so over processed it has more advanced chemistry than MIT. You watch these bloated bodies shift from one foot to the other or simply sit down where they wait, blocking the path.
We have all gotten bigger as the quality of the food we eat has shrunk. We don't have time to wonder if there's a connection.
Most corporations know they make more money for their shareholders by putting the squeeze on the rest of us. Today that ruthless squeeze is most clearly seen from rows 10 though 35. The 2016 economy airplane seat is the perfect metaphor for what has happened to the country.
Over the years, without you even noticing, everything around you has gotten smaller and more constricted until you finally realize that you can’t move, turn, stretch or recline. You're trapped.
While you were distracted by endless wars, recessions, invasions and attacks, the world around you and even your future was shrinking and folding and constricting until you discover you can no longer even move.
Travel doesn't have to be this miserable. It didn't used to be. So how did it become acceptable to treat fellow adults with such contempt?
If the nightmare that is modern air travel is a metaphor for our age, then the great question before us is exactly how screwed is the United States?
It's a question that's being asked with urgency everywhere in the world in 2016. In fact the only place it's not being asked very often is here in the United States itself.
That's because we're all too busy fighting over giving or restricting access to guns, giving or restricting access to affordable health care, giving or restricting rights for women, giving or restricting access to good paying jobs and so on. We even have dueling slogans: Yes We Can or No You Can't.
From overseas, even from nearby Canada, it increasingly looks like we've completely lost the plot. Our Congress guts or stymies every bill that's presented to it by their political opponents, the Senate rarely misses an opportunity to send a one fingered salute to the president’s desk, and even the urgent business of appointing a Supreme Court judge to fill the seat recently vacated by the late Antonin Scalia has been resisted by our increasingly toxic partisan rancor.
It's as if the wheels have come off all our civic enterprise now. It's as if we went to sleep in the age of TWA and Pan Am and woke up in the age of Spirit Air and Donald Trump.
What's truly frightening is how comparatively little time it took. And we can't seem to move.