In the classic 1967 Western "El Dorado," old John Wayne tries to teach young James Caan how to shoot. They're in the desert, surrounded by towering saguaro cacti, and Wayne dismounts for a demonstration. He draws and fires his six-shooter into a cactus that looks taller and older than Duke. Then Caan tries. He shoots. He misses the cactus.

Today's audience, conditioned by 33 years of environmental awareness, breathes a sigh of relief that the cactus was spared another bullet, but in 1967, as in the Old West, it was just a cactus.

We're more careful about everything now. We gasp in horror at old movies where people smoke at the dinner table with their kids, drive around without seat belts, spend a day at the beach without gallons of sunscreen or use endangered species for target practice.

Those days are gone. And gone, too, are the days of unprotected travel, when travel agents could simply deliver the tickets and say, "Have a nice trip."

It's not even enough to check for State Department travel advisories; you have to download even the mildest notice about dust storms in the Sahara lest a litigious client returns to sue you for the cost of a scarf and goggles. It's not enough to ask the airline if this is the "lowest fare"; you have to launch the low-fare search in the CRS and keep it running for three days while you click over to the Web and search again, and again and again, lest the client waves an e-mail in your face about something that's $20 lower. It's not enough to offer trip insurance; you have to get the clients to sign a statement that they rejected the offer and to initial another statement that they signed the statement rejecting the offer. You need to know as much about the client's food allergies as the client. You not only need a bookkeeper and a lawyer, you need a Webmaster, medical consultant and security expert, too.

Sometimes, don't you just want to shoot the damn cactus?

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