By Tom Ehrich

ON BOARD UNITED FLIGHT 1293 (EWR to SFO) -- Now, this is a sorrow: no wi-fi on this flight. Old equipment. Time to go old-school in writing.

But this is a joy: no occupant in the middle seat. Wiggle room!

These are "first-world" issues, of course. Life's ups and downs are very different for most of humanity. So I won't make too much of them. Just a quiet prayer of thanks for the empty seat. No point in berating the woman in front of me for reclining her seat and bumping my knees.

Air travel is proof that the Serenity Prayer isn"t just for alcoholics in recovery and other 12-steppers. We all need to honor the difference between things we can change and things we cannot change. Never more so than when we are crammed into a metal tube with 250 strangers and stale air six miles in the sky.

I try to make progress in John Le Carre's latest spy novel. I can't tell if I am tired and the convoluted tale is accompanying me to sleep, or Le Carre in late career has managed to take the thrill out of thriller and is putting me to sleep. Either way, I lose the thread.

I sneak a peek at internet access, hoping to snag a little email, but discover that no cell towers operate at 36,000 feet. I should have guessed that.

In the end, I get my work done — I don’t suppose an iPad is exactly “old school” — and I arrive reasonably refreshed, ready at least to tackle San Francisco’s bizarre public transit system.

My takeaway from this flight: it is possible to get worked up about many things, but as actual misery stalks humanity, a missing wi-fi signal doesn’t rise to the level of ultimate concern.