If you don’t believe in time travel, and surprisingly, many people don’t, then you haven’t flown commercially in the last thirty years. The next time you’re standing at the ticket counter schlepping around for your picture ID and trying to convince the agent that your check-in luggage doesn’t contain a tomahawk missile, look carefully. That dinosaur of a computer the ticket agent is hammering away at is actually one of Steve Jobs’ original Apple computers, complete with attractive off-gray plastic shell and cathode ray tube. The agent isn’t typing those bazillion key strokes to find your reservation, she’s killing time waiting for the tube to warm up. The airlines rely on this cutting edge 1980’s technology in order to achieve the near impossible. That is, of course, to ensure that thousands of times per day without fail at least fifty percent of all flights are massively overbooked. No easy task.
Few other industries that rely on a reservation system would dare try to provide this consistent level of service. Imagine if you will the restaurant industry employing this strategy. Say you go to Rigatonie’s Italian for a nice spaghetti dinner and are waiting for your table, then the manager steps up to the little hostess podium. “Attention everyone!” he announces. “Unfortunately, Rigatonie’s has overbooked its tables this evening. We are asking for volunteers willing to reschedule their dinners to another sitting. We have one scheduled five hours from now at 1:00 a.m. Volunteers will receive one complementary non-seafood appetizer. We cannot begin seating until we have sufficient volunteers. Thank you.” Who else gets away with this? Nonetheless, God bless ‘em, the airlines manage to achieve their quota, day after day.
The journey back in time continues after boarding. Fun fact: Thanks to exceptional cooperation between Boeing and Airbus, the same factory in Hoboken, New Jersey, continues to manufacture the same tried and true seatbelts originally designed for the 1957 Chevy Bel Air. Extra Fun Fact: Boeing even installed these loyal safeguards of the sky in every Space Shuttle. Both Boeing and Airbus like to brag that every time a passenger lifts up on one of the seatbelt clips, a union worker in Hoboken earns his wings.
Time to use the onboard lavatory? The journey continues. It’s a flying toilet museum. I am, of course, referring to the peaceful comfort of being able to place a paper seat protector down on the toilet and turn “into position” without the fear of hearing an auto-flush engage and seeing your paper shield flash from sight. Note to helpful engineers: Some technology has reached its zenith. Disengage from pioneering further “advancements.”
Nothing takes us back in time so much, however, as the state-of-the-art scratchy “plug-in sound” quality. You see, the real joy of having the airline industry lie to us about the danger of low frequency radio waves during flight is that we are able to transport ourselves to a pre-World War II entertainment experience. It’s Jack Benny on the talkie all over again.
Here’s the nut. The next time you hear someone mention time travel, don’t mock them and call them a science fiction dweeb. Time travel is alive and well. And, unfortunately, if the airlines get their way, we’ll be enjoying this portal to the past for decades to come. So too our children, and yes, even our children’s children.