Sociologists and economists worldwide have come to the defense of pilots whose laptop use in the cockpit caused them to fly 150 miles beyond their destination.
Federal safety officials reported Monday that the flight overshot its scheduled landing because the pilots were using their laptops and lost track of time and location.
"Some may call it arrogance," said sociologist Merton K. Roberts, "but what's a pilot to do? Both those guys had logged thousands of hours of flight time. They were bored out of their gourds! Pilots get bored just like the rest of us, why even more so, say, than most of my students." His arm swept over his classroom, where students lay draped over their desks, snoring.
"Playing on their laptops provides relief from tedium.
"It also contributes to the bonding experience so essential to the pilot-copilot relationship. Chances are they were playing one of those online poker games together," he mused. "What could be better than that?'
When it was suggested that the pilots' distraction could have been responsible for much more serious consequences, Professor Roberts shrugged. "It's the price you pay. We professionals need our distractions, otherwise we'd die of boredom. Lord knows where many of my colleagues would be had the v-neck sweater not been invented.
"What are obstetricians to do while waiting for their patient's next contraction? Or priests in the confessional while hearing yet another dreary litany of minor sins like swearing at one's cousin or kicking the cat? It's not too often that someone spices things up by admitting to a juicy adultery or subway groping.
"For that matter, what are bus drivers to do when they are stuck in traffic? Drivers - even professionals -- get very irritated when they are bored for even a few seconds. Look at road rage: findings have proven that it increases in direct proportion to the number of seconds one has to wait at a stoplight or for incoming traffic from a freeway on-ramp.
"Give drivers a laptop, and they are much happier," the professor concluded.
"Arrogant, schmarrogant," said World Bank economist Maynard K. Johns. "Hope among my profession is that this incident won't mean Internet browsing will be widely banned in the workforce."
Responding to the suggestion that using laptops is against most workplace policies anyway, Dr. Johns said, "Well, of course, we all know it is. But it's rarely enforced, and that's a good thing. Take our current financial climate. If we were to ban recreational use of the computer, it would seriously damage the economy.
"Productivity would increase dramatically and pretty soon, more people would be laid off because more work would be done in less time," he shuddered.
"Our present economic environment can't sustain more layoffs, even if most work hours logged are unproductive," Johns said.
"Surfing the web on the company dime is good for commerce. Think of what would happen to the online games industry if people adhered to any semblance of personal ethics. Those fantasy sports leagues would come crashing down! Think of all the revenue from those pop-up ads -- it would be lost!
"And then there's the small businessman or woman," he continued. "Statistics show that nearly every entrepreneur in recent years was able to avoid start-up costs by charging his employer for the hours he worked at his desk developing his own business in lieu of doing his job. And by cashing in on resources her employer took years to build, like their customer base. And by stealing intellectual property - hell, even stocking his home office from his employer's supply cabinet!
"Cracking down on unauthorized use of the computer would be disastrous for entrepreneurs. If they couldn't siphon off their employers, how would small businesses get a leg up?
"Have you ever considered your own employer?" he addressed the reporter. "Readership of The Spoof.com is shown to spike during work hours. Your website is virtually ignored on evenings and weekends. As for the writers, your submissions consistently arrive during work hours, and I'm not saying at break or lunchtime.
"It's a fact of the modern world," Johns said, "Those pilots were doing what every red-blooded worker does during 70-80% of their workday. And it's good for the economy. Now, wrap it up, boys. I've got to check on the football scores," Johns finished as he swiveled in his chair to his desktop computer.
In related news, the ban on research on reproductive cloning has been lifted to allow investigation into the possibility of replicating US Airways pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger III, so that more responsible, less arrogant pilots can be introduced to the workforce.