First time I remember flying I was eight years old.
I wore a flannel shirt, a side half-pony tail, and a Lion King watch and sat nervously on the airplane. We’d been to the airport many times, gone to the gate and watched planes take off and land, but I’d never been on one. I didn’t know what it felt like to barrel down the runway with growing speed, or that each seat would contain a card with images showing emergency procedures, or that everything would take so long.
Our itinerary took us from Washington to Washington, from evergreens to doric columns, from Pacific Standard Time to three hours in the future. I turned the dial on the side of my watch, hands fanning in front of Simba and Nala, and joked to my sister that “Time flies. Literally!”
Kids growing up today won’t know the satisfaction of hanging up on someone by snapping a phone shut.
And you’ll never know the satisfaction of hanging up on someone by slamming the receiver against the hook. Or the frustration of not having a phone in your bedroom. Or the annoyance of your sister still being on the phone, matched by the twin joys of listening in on the other phone, or hanging up the phone for her by unplugging the cord.
I’m not that old, but as I felt it remembering a time before this nostalgic reference.
“Do you have your ticket and visa?”
“In the cloud.”
“Do you have your confirmation number?”
“In my email.”
“Did you print out a copy?”
“My email’s on my phone.”
“I’d be nervous travelling without papers.”
“I was born in the 80’s.”
I remember phones with cords and the sound a modem makes connecting ot the internet, but I’ve had no problem keeping up with the changes. In fact, I’m glad all my travel documents are in the cloud so I don’t have to worry about misplacing them.
The planes have changed, too. Last time I flew across an ocean I stared for hours, empty, bored, dehydrated, at the orange seat in front of me. This time there is a screen in the back of every seat; we can each choose our own movies, TV shows, music, news program. We can also view the flight progress on several maps.
Between Silver Linings Playbook and episodes of The Big Bang Theory I switch to a view of our flight path. We have passed Hawaii, we have passed the equator and we are nearing the international date line. My instinct tells me I’ll have to wind the hands on my watch to get the time right. But then I remember I no longer have a watch, but a phone, a tablet, a laptop. And the local networks will change the time for me.
It’s been 20 years since that flight to Washington D.C.; time really does fly. This time I’m alone, so I’m grateful for the screen in the seat in front of me, but I miss changing my clock to match my location, and I miss having my siblings there to joke with.