not flying the unfriendly skies.

We’re going on a trip in late October.  Friends of ours are getting married, and we’ll be going to South Carolina for the event.  After the wedding, we’re going over to North Carolina for a visit with Robin’s parents, and then it’s back home to Upper Cryogenica.

This is a trip of 2000+ miles, and we’ll be driving.  That’s right–I’m loading up the Grand Marnier with gear and provisions, and we’re hitting the open road, all four of us.  (The doggies are staying home with a house sitter.)  We are going to drive because we hate the idea of subjecting ourselves to the airport security kabuki with two preschoolers in tow, and being treated like criminal cattle isn’t high on my list of experiences for the kids.  Instead, we’re going on our own schedule, we won’t be forcibly relieved of anything more dangerous than a Q-Tip, and we’ll be bringing our own food instead of being forced to subside on airline food and overpriced chain restaurant fare in overcrowded airport feeding stations.  We’ll stop where we want along the way, and the Grand Marnier offers more luggage space and legroom than a row of coach seats and a pair of overhead bins.

Yes, that’s correct: we made a conscious decision not to fly because of the hassle associated with the security nonsense at the airport. That’s the money for four tickets, and the associated food expenses along the way, that won’t be spent with the airlines or at airport restaurants.  I haven’t priced any tickets from NH to the Carolinas recently, but I’m willing to wager that we’re talking about a non-trivial amount of cash here for a family of four.

I wonder how many other families are making similar decisions for the holiday traveling season ahead?

You know, if you established a new federal agency with the express purpose of choking the life out of commercial air travel (and expand the scope of government surveillance powers along the way), you would be hard-pressed to do as good of a job as it as the TSA and its legions of uniformed ass-grabbers…

55 thoughts on “not flying the unfriendly skies.

  1. Scotaku says:

    A good choice. Earlier this summer I took the Heiresses out to Chicago for a visit to the Family Seat, and we drove out as opposed to flying. Not only was the trip fun and relaxing (it’s true!), but the kids actually got an idea as to the scale of the country.

    And they got to see corn.

    Flying? I love it. Getting to the airplane? Not so much. I agree with you, Marko – if you want to screw up something really cool, put a lettered agency in-between you and the best bit. Oh, and then make it all cramped and give it crappy food.

    • cybrus says:

      “Flying? I love it. Getting to the airplane? Not so much.”
      My thoughts EXACTLY!

      We’ll be doing an extended vacation out to the Rockies next year (haven’t decided where yet) and we’ll be driving, not flying, and the biggest reason why is to avoid the Security Theater

    • Dave says:

      Food? They gave you food? We had to draw lots and eat one of our own!

      Actually, it probably tasted better, and we loaded the dice to arrange for the “loser” to be the whiny git who wouldn’t hang up his cell phone so we could push back.

  2. JD says:

    We almost drove down to Disney this time. If my Mom was not going with us I would have taken the extra day off and drove just to save the $$ and hassel of flying. . .

  3. LittleRed1 says:

    I’m to the point where I don’t go to professional meetings if I can’t drive there, with one exception. I don’t like the security hassle, I don’t like having to disarm myself, and in at least one case, it too less time to drive than it did to fly commercial. Enough already!

  4. CalvinsMom says:

    Do you need a place, Philly-area, to lay over? It might be tight, but we can throw Quinn in with OctoBoy, Lyra in with SnarkGirl, and free up Ginger Beastie’s room for you and Robin….free meals included!

  5. misbeHaven says:

    I made that decision about 9 years ago. TXGunGeek and I have made the road trip from TX to MT and back about every second year since then. Even though it’s a 2-1/2 day trip each way, we can carry what we please, eat what we want, and not be subjected to a strip search of ourselves and our luggage.

  6. Tam says:

    If one owns a good automobile, there’s no longer any point in flying less than about 400 miles.

    Between the demise of the NMSL and the rise of the TSA, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to take the car.

    Indy-to-K-town is 370 miles, 5.5 hrs door-to-door, <$75.00 round-trip in petrol, and I don't need to drive a crappy rental car or take taxis while I'm there…

    • CGHill says:

      This is precisely the distance for my most common trip (Oklahoma City to Kansas City), and the metrics are pretty much the same.

      I remember flying that run once when Southwest was practically giving away seats – something like $19 one way before fees and charges and more fees.

      And my car has never once lost one of my bags.

  7. Wraith says:

    Funny you should ask. My wife and I are heading out on a little vacation to our land of origin (MN) from the Sovereign State of Arizona in about a month, without benefit of air travel. Until and unless I am treated like an American citizen and a human being by airlines and airports, I’m done with flying.

    It’s a shame, really. I grew up on airplanes, during the end of the Golden Age of Air Travel(the ’70s), and it’s so sad to see what was once a wonderful experience degenerate into the equivalent of a prostate exam.

  8. aczarnowski says:

    Don’t forget the money saved on a rental car.

    Tam has been right for a decade – anything under 6 hours car time is a no brainer. It’s when my wife starts talking day-plus distances that it starts to get really difficult to avoid flying.

    It would help if I didn’t have constant visions of the car losing a major part in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes it sucks understanding that mechanical things break.

  9. Mark Alger says:

    I salute you. I would further urge you to make sure that the relevant parties (airlines, congresscritters, et al) are advised on paper of your intent. Perhaps just printing a copy of the post will do. No point in leaving the lesson you’re imparting up to somebody’s guess. Let them know for sure.

    M

  10. Leatherwing says:

    From my house in NC to my mother’s in TX is 1019 miles. I drive now because of the security theater (remove everything and something still beeps, I get wanded. Eventually I’ll say the wrong thing.) It’s a 2 day trip, but we take the opportunity to stop and see old friends or family.
    We want to take a trip to Europe, but the silly security situation makes me very hesitant.

  11. Andi Scott says:

    My husband and I too have decided to turn our vacation (also around a wedding) into a road trip. Rather than fly from the not-quite-Houston area of Texas to Denver, we’re driving. We decided with a preschooler and the stuff we want to take for the wedding and visit, it’s easier to drive. Sure, it’s a long 2 days up and back, but we’ll have more freedom. Not just in the actual traveling, but in getting around once we’re in Denver. No car rental, no bumming rides or cars from relatives. I’m also lobbying for taking our Dachshunds along, just need to clear with our hosts and sell my husband on eating in parks, not indoors. Also, we can change our route back to visit family along the way.

    We’ve flown the past several Denver trips, but between cost, luggage restrictions and overdone security, it’s not worth the hassle.

  12. Chang says:

    I totally hear you.

    Rather than fly, I took Sophia to a wedding in Baltimore via train then rental car. Infinitely easier than the hassle of flying.I’m seriously considering this for all trips of domestic regions.

    Especially RENO 2011!!!

  13. ZerCool says:

    This seems to be turning into a running theme.

    MrsZ and I just returned from a major trip… a significant portion of which was by train.

    I’ve reached the decision that I will NEVER fly less than a day’s drive, and if I can swing the time to do it, anything longer than a day will be on a train.

  14. farmist says:

    “You know, if you established a new federal agency with the express purpose of choking the life out of commercial air travel…”

    Thugs Strangling Aviation

  15. GD says:

    I travel frequently for business as well as pleasure and, while it causes my co-workers to look at me funny, I try to drive as much as possible. My bosses get a little squirrely if I am driving over 5 hours somewhere (“why don’t you fly”), but generally I drive it. I can leave when I want, arrive when I want, and return when I want. I am never stuck waiting in an airport, I am never herded like cattle, and I am never dehumanized by the BS “security”. Oh, and it is typically cheaper. The downside is I usually have to leave a day before whatever I am travelling for, but I usually did that anyway when I flew.
    For personal travel, I *always* drive. Including a trip cross-country which was awesome. The only exception are trips overseas (obviously).

  16. Atom Smasher says:

    If it’s within a day’s drive I already agree and implement the “drive instead” rule, and after my trip to MA this weekend (moved my mom out of her house) I may open that timeline up a little. Flying out of Hartford, they made me pull my Dopp kit out of my little carry on and put it in a tray. How many flippin’ times do I have to unpack for these numbstems?

  17. Dominique says:

    My feelings on flying are mixed. I really don’t like the ‘remove any metallic objects, your shoes and dignity’ routine – but driving from Arizona to Washington takes significantly longer than a 4 hour plan ride.

    The loose rule I’m working with at the moment is that if it’s just me traveling, I’ll fly. If I’m traveling with my boyfriend or family, I’ll drive, as having someone to talk to on road trips make them suck much, much less.

  18. Alex says:

    If its just me, I will drive to anything that is 8 hours or less drive time away.

    If it is my whole family (5 of us), we will drive. Period. Trying to get three kids 5 and under, plus my wife and I through the security, much less the airport is just too much of a hassle.

    We just returned from a two-week vacation in Florida. We drove from Ohio to SC to visit friends one day, finished the trip to FL the next. On the way home, we did it in one shot🙂. 19.5 hours – 1033 miles, with a 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old🙂.

  19. Concur. My brother on the Left Coast asked me when I’d come to see him. I told him to get Skype.

    I’m not flying commercial anywhere unless I’m getting well paid for doing so.

  20. Jake says:

    I still fly cross-country, as driving there and back on a weekend is mathematically impossible, and I only get so many vacation days per year…but anything under about a thousand miles each way is done by car.

    Oh and I don’t own a car; just rent one every time. I’ve figured that the break-even point is around 200-300 miles per day, and everything local is within walking or bus distance.

    When they start installing X-ray scanners on municipal buses, then I will be really displeased.

  21. If the Gun Rights Policy Conference wasn’t in San Francisco and I have limited time, I wouldn’t even consider flying.

    Just looking at the Thousands Standing Around raises my blood pressure and will probably get me profiled as an “angry white guy”.

    My brother-in-law is a Captain/Fed Flight Deck Officer with Delta and the stories he tells about the “security kabuki” would just curl your hair.

  22. Charles says:

    We drive or we don’t go. Just did 3000+ miles to Montana and Idaho, a bunch of it on small state highways or less. Four kids. Suburban. The biggest cost to us is time. More than worth it or we simply don’t go.

    Haven’t been to a professional meeting in years. More because the content is freely available and connections are no longer physically based unless you want to drink in a crowd or cheat on the spouse. Last non-local meeting was a 12hr drive.

    We will hire a private charter. It’s price competitive with more than a couple passengers. You can’t beat the service and responsiveness. Imagine getting to a very close (small) airport and off the ground in 10 minutes. Landing and having your rental car in a shady spot outside the lobby door. Give it a look before you think it’s out of reach. We haven’t used this guy and we have no interest in his biz (I picked up his brochure at a small airport somewhere. http://www.jacobiaviation.com/Charter.html fyi: small planes have real weight limits. Pack light.

    Until then, drive! Enjoy the stops. Get off the Interstate. Show the kids America and find the local candy like Twin Bings.

  23. Sarah says:

    The actual flying part is pretty cool, but I haven’t been anywhere near a plane or airport since early 2001 and really don’t want to change that. Road trips tend to cost me less money and give me the opportunity to see different parts of the route.

    Oh, yeah, and I can have my guns, my cigarettes, and my Dr Pepper without anybody giving me any crap for it. Good times.

  24. williamthecoroner says:

    Agreed. If I have to fly, I tote a pair of crutches and get tremendous hassles, as well as extortionate demands for tips. If I drive, I can see cool things, I don’t have to disarm, and I’m not packed into a seat that’s three sizes to small for by butt.

  25. Eric Hammer says:

    Yay on driving! My wife and I visited her sister in SC (coming from PA) and turned it into a lovely 3 day trip, stopping in lots of neat little places en route. She planned (obsessively) ahead and got great deals on hotels, planned the events of the day and restaurants, and it was really a great deal of fun.

    Incidentally, if you are going up the Valley in in VA, right around Natural Bridge there is an EXCELLENT wild animal safari park. You pay some fee for the day (pretty small), buy some feed and drive your car through the area. The various animals come over and let you pet them through rolled down windows while you give them a snack, and then you drive on. The fee is for all day too, so you can hop out, go to their petting zoo, then go in again. There are all sorts of animals, from buffalo to zebra, and being that close is just really cool. My wife was thrilled to pet the babies and some of the rarer animals (even if she did need to scold some of the llamas for being bad). I highly recommend it for both adults and the kids.

  26. T.Stahl says:

    I drove from Stuttgart/Germany to Lillehammer/Norway, which is more than 1,000mls one way. And I did it in winter. Flying was out of the question for several reasons, the least being my two meter cross-country skis.
    For the better half of this year, on three out of four weekends I went from Stuttgart to Hamburg and back. I flew only once and rather took the train or drove. Flying would’ve been faster and maybe even cheaper than taking the train but I willingly spent a few extra hours every weekend for my commute: more space, a generous limit regarding what I could take with me (as much as I could carry), no body searches and no need to check in the multi-tool and the folder on my belt.
    That the train is less environmentally unfriendly was only a minor consideration.
    If there were a (completely theoretical) train across the Atlantic with the same conditions as the train between Stuttgart and Hamburg, I’d rather take that on instead of the plane, even if then the journey would take a whole day instead of eight hours (well, eleven counting checking in and getting the baggage back).

    • Doug says:

      One of the things I am going to miss the most about Germany is the trains. I have gotten quite addicted to them. Especially the Baden-Wurttemburg and Schoene Wochende tickets. Best idea ever.

      • LittleRed1 says:

        Here here! The last time I was in Germany, the family took trains from Berlin to Zurich rather than flying. The time was the same, it cost less (5 adults) and my brother and parents could see parts of the country that they had never seen before. Sure beat a four hour layover in Frankfurt.

  27. Jeff says:

    Haven’t flown since 1987 and don’t intend to start again. It was bad enough when I was younger and thinner. Now the seat width and leg room is suitable only for an anorexic dwarf. Since I am closer to an anorexic mountain, it ain’t happening. Add the indignity ( and ineffectiveness) of the TSA, huge lines, time delays, etc., etc., and it gets worse.

    We drive now no matter what. The SUV is comfortable, I remain armed, it’s cheaper than flying, we pack delicious picnics, and take lesser travelled roads when possible to see the country. I can carry guns, fishing gear, my wood carving knives and smoke my pipe when I wish.

    Beats the hell out of being in a sealed (more or less) aluminum tube, breathing germy, recycled air, at the mercy of strangers in the cockpit and whoever the TSA cretins pass along because they’ve already checked their quota of arabic-looking people.

    Did I mention I don’t expect to fly again?

    Jeff

  28. Al T. says:

    Let me know where in South Kackalacky and I’ll meet you guys for lunch on me.

  29. Al T. says:

    Oh, yeah, watch out for speed traps.. Especially in small towns.

    • Doug says:

      Especially again if you are going to be in the Upstate area. I-85 around Greenville is notorious, as is US-123 between Clemson and Greenville.

  30. Nate says:

    My wife and I made the same decision last December. It wound up costing a lot more and turned into the greatest adventure we’d ever had together, too.

  31. RevolverRob says:

    I wish I could drive more places. We are doing a week long field trip to Yellowstone for some field work in four weeks. I would rather drive, because I’ve never been to that part of the country before. Unfortunately, we have to fly, because it’s so much faster, it gives us more time on the ground to do work.

    So, what’s my point? Even if a family of four decides to drive some place, a group of 10 flies to Wyoming it makes up for it. We don’t have a choice, due to time constraints and business requirements. So, the TSA and the commercial airlines will continue to collect our cash. It’s just the new world, business travel and movement far and above outweighs leisure travel in the airline industry, so they really don’t have to worry about failing, because people will still need to fly to Gainesville, Florida on business on short notice and they will get your money that way. I hate the bastards for it, but I’m left with no other option than to give up my day job. Loving my day job means, I continue to subject myself to the uniformed ass grabbing administration.

    -Rob

    • ASM826 says:

      RevolverBob,

      It is not a losing proposition to drive when you can and fly when you have to. Airlines are marginal businesses, they only make a profit planes full or very close to it.
      A 20% reduction in booked flights would be a huge hit. I think Munchkin Wrangler has the right idea, and I have done the same thing. I have flown twice since the post 9/11 changes, both for work where I didn’t pay for it and also had little choice. All vacations are by motor vehicle.
      If enough of us make that choice, they will change how they treat their paying customers. Until then, I will not pay for the opportunity to be treated like a suspect.

    • Tam says:

      Rob,

      It’s cool. I don’t think Marko was trying to call for a boycott or anything.🙂

  32. MarkHB says:

    Yup. SIGGRAPH, the annual big clambake for graphics types, was in LA this year. When it rolled around, everyone in the company bundled into cars and drove there from Albuquerque. About nose-on a 2,000 mile round-trip, but nobody wanted to fly. That’s a fair chunk of change that nobody got. Everyone’s sick of being treated as a potential tango come herd animal. Everyone’s sick of having their shit stolen. Everyone’s sick of having their checked baggage turning into the Mystery Bag of Broken and Missing Stuff.

    TSA needs to go away. It never did any good, and it’s just doing more and more harm. I hear they’re pressing to have their goons armed…. deep joy.

  33. paulcr39 says:

    I’m with you and the rest on not flying. I live outside of Mordor, er Chicago and have family in Naples, FL (the poor part of town.) I haven’t flown down there or anywhere else since 1995. I love flying, but I got sick of stolen luggage, large smelly seat mates and dirty recycled air. After every flight I could pretty much expect a cold. I’m a hand washing no touch the face nut, so I figure it has to be that air constantly blowing in one’s face.
    Unless I happen to hit the Lotto I may never fly again and I definitely do not miss it.

  34. Skip says:

    I had to fly every Fri. afternoon and Mon. morning, to work and back, for years.
    Then someone put this old, fat, cleanshaven, white guy on the ‘list’.
    I quit, refused out of town projects and have not flown since.
    Next trip is from Cal to New Oleans and we will drive, thank you very much.

  35. MaddMedic says:

    No fly.
    Fly bad for me.
    Makes me anxious and grumpy.
    Thats before I even get on the damn plane.
    Then I run into idiotic little shitlers called TSA agents.
    When I am already onery, grumpy, ready to bite someone’s head off.
    Bad thing.
    No fly.

  36. Heath J says:

    Preach it, brother.

    We drove to Utah last year for the same reason. It’s just not worth the grief.

  37. breda says:

    Gosh – people upset about taking off their shoes. The horror! Try flying as an amputee.

    • Tam says:

      Gosh – people upset about taking off their shoes.

      You’re goddamned right I am.

      • og says:

        The shoes thing is a giant pain in the ass- but I’m so used to it I no longer even think about it anymore.

        I will say, unequivocally, that standing in line behind a row of women bending over to take off and then put back on their shoes makes it all worthwhile, for me. But then, I was born a dirty old man.

        • Tam says:

          Og,

          It’s the principle of the thing.

          A slap hurts less than a punch, but both of them are some jackanape laying hands on me without my permission.

        • og says:

          Sure. It’s kabuki, and it’s stupid and unnecesary. I’m completely with you on that.

          but I still have to fly.

          And when you choose to fly, you grant your permission to be searched. That’s just the way it is.

          So you que up to be searched. I’ve qued up to be slapped, too. Confirmation, for one, several organization initiations as well. Some of the slaps were in earnest.

          Sometimes you have to do something you dislike to get to the thing you need to get to. Acne is my hormones messing up my face without my permission but you won’t get to adulthood without it. And unless you can convince a good friend of ours to cart you around the planet, you ain’t gonna get on a plane without doing something unpleasant.

          Seasoned business travellers know the drill. We do it all the time. It’s no big deal. I don’t even think about it anymore, it’s just another rite of passage. if I think of the top 100 list of shit that’s wrong, wrong, wrong, and needs to be fixed right the hell away, this isn’t even in that list.

        • Tam says:

          Sorry, but ritualized gestures of submission cause me to break out in hives.

          I understand you have to in order to fly on business, and I’ll do it, too, if I have to fly someplace.

          But I’ll eat a cat turd before I’ll say that bending my knee to a jumped-up mop jockey in order to access a service for which I am paying handsomely is “no big deal”.

        • og says:

          Mweh. Me, I got bigger fish to fry before I worry about this stupid little minnow. I know for a fact, being an ex-and sometimes-still smoker myself, that you will get out of bed in the freezing cold in the wee small hours of the morning to stand in line to buy overpriced overtaxed smokes from a surly service station attendant, and you will fight for the opportunity to do so. That and a thousand other things we do voluntarily without thinking of them are all flakes of ice on the luge run to hell.

          “But I’ll eat a cat turd before I’ll say that bending my knee to a jumped-up mop jockey in order to access a service for which I am paying handsomely is “no big deal”.”

          Hope you like the taste, because shit is coming down the pike that will make a tsa feel-up seem loving.

  38. mcdonatl says:

    We drive on vacations. We hate to fly for all of the reasons previously mentioned. Couldn’t agree more. I’m 100% with you.

    However, I don’t blame it all on the government or the airlines. The only good thing is the time savings (on long flights/high mile trips). Everything else about flying sucks.

    The two reasons it sucks that underly all others is economics and safety.

    Safety is a global and societal problem and you don’t want our government controlling the economics.

    So I just don’t choose to fly very often. I leave it to all of you to blame someone for it.

  39. Al Terego says:

    How could anyone not love to fly?

    I’ve often thought, as others alluded above, that if I could be dropped off at the plane, have a nice meal, catch a movie, enjoy a nice book or nap, and walk off in a whole ‘nother world 3000 miles and just a few hours from where I started, I would fly as much as I could possibly afford to. I love to drive, but when it comes to getting from A to B ASAP, give me some jet; and as mentioned, the experience itself is just cool.

    Of course there are those who do enjoy just such a flying experience, and much better. Like the ones who make sure that you and I don’t.

    You ask, do they not understand that they are killing (another) American industry? And more importantly that their poor, impotent and pathetic excuse for airport security has sucked the joy and dignity out of one of our most amazing modern abilities – the ability to be magically transported from one climate or country to another in the time it takes to make it to the state line by car?

    I repeat: “…there are those who do enjoy just such a flying experience, and much better. Like the ones who make sure that you don’t.”

    Why would they care?

    AT

  40. Bubblehead Les says:

    Fly? Last time I flew was to Vegas to get married. Nearly died when I saw how crowded the planes had become. That was right after 9/11, also. Last time I flew before then was Jan 87, and the seats were wider, the food was better, and the lines were shorter. If I have to fly nowadays, someone’s booking me a charter on their dime. Hell, if I ever have to go to Europe, I’d be looking at some of those Cargo Ships that have stateroom service and grab a rental car when we reach port.

  41. Evan Price says:

    I used to fly everywhere. Security wasn’t that bad if you picked the right time of day to fly. Then the airlines started getting pissier. Miss a connection, pay a fee. Have to stay later at the destination, pay a fee. Need to carry tools and luggage, pay a fee. Want something to drink or eat, pay a fee.

    Now it’s dare to actually want to take luggage, pay a fee. Want a seat that’s not inside the overhead compartment, pay a fee. Want to get on the plane using a Jetway instead of being thrown aboard like luggage, pay a fee. Well, you get the idea.

    Plus TSA has gotten stupider and stupider. Nevermind they have “loosened” restrictions on nail files and hair gel. At least when I travel I always carry a pistol, and that gets you bumped to the head of most lines at airports- just declare a gun, they get people to carry your luggage and wave you past the lines. Nice!

    However, time comes that I am sick of being treated like cattle. And really, not very valuable cattle at that! I’m dumping almost a thousand dollars to pay for round-trip travel cross-country on Airline X, you would think they would treat me like they actually wanted my money. As it is now, they take your money and get upset if you actually plan to actually USE the airplane.

    I know that the kid gloves treatment of the 60’s Jet Age is long gone. No hot towels, complimentary booze, pillows, decent food, airline-logo playing cards, or little aviators’ wings or die-cast jet planes for the kids. And getting to go up to the cockpit in flight will never happen again.

    That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t expect a seat that doesn’t leave me with a blod clot in my legs from being packed in like a Barbie in a display box. I’m sick of good luggage coming back folded, spindled and mutilated and being told it’s “Normal wear and tear”. And I’m absolutely tired of service with a snarl, where anything you might do will get you denied boarding “privelages” but the airline will do nothing whatsoever about its own mishandling, overselling, and poor service/conduct.

    My family of four just got back from a 1300 mile round trip vacation to the People’s Democratic Republic of Kanada and Michigan’s beautiful UP. We will be heading down to MouseWorld in Florida. We’ve done Las Vegas, San Diego, Grand Canyon, St. Louis, Moab, Pigeon Forge, Nashville, etc. via truck and travel trailer. Kids loved it, wife loved it, I loved it. We can see anything we want to see with no schedules and no timetables.

    TO hell with the airlines, and their lousy service. If I’m going to be forced to use a tiny bathroom with barely enough space to turn and wipe my behind, it will be MY tiny bathroom, in MY travel trailer.

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