Sunday, May 22, 2005

Up in the air

Took the kids on a trip requiring air travel, which went surprisingly smoothly.

We were among the last to leave the plane, and the pilot invited the kids into the cockpit. They got to sit in the pilot's and copilot's seats and examine the controls and displays. It was one of those experiences that seems very 1960s, something out of a children’s book from that era or “Catch Me if You Can,” when commercial airline pilots were like rock stars – or at least occupied a position just below astronaut and somewhat above firefighter in the pantheon of “what I want to be when I grow up.” They were like priests in a temple, holding the key to a wondrous and still somewhat mysterious technology. But today we're jaded about technology, and pilots have weathered deregulation, consolidation, strikes, layoffs and 9/11. In other words, they're ordinary human beings, probably with a few more problems than the rest of us.

But cockpits have regained their mystery. They are now fortified, impenetrable places. I didn’t think you could get anywhere near the controls of an airplane anymore. So after enduring all the pointless security redundancies put in place the last few years, it was strangely moving to be back inside the temple.