I thought back to 1981 for my first flight. It was achieved after the stepfather and my younger sib ate enough boxes of Chex cereal to collect the box tops needed for a free airline ticket on Republic Airlines.
Detroit to Atlanta on a business trip with the parental unit was that first flight. In the business section of the plane, looking out a window behind the wing we were served a hot meal of steak or chicken, with metal fork and knife. When we arrived at the new airport, I was amazed by the tram that sped people from one terminal to the next. At each stop the robotic voice of the future would sound a semi-understandable announcement of the next location. In a rented Chevy we went a long way past the city to a brand new hotel. It seemed huge and magical with the glass elevators and sky light ceilings.
Of the few things I remember most vividly that week was the introduction of cable television to my life, paying far too much for ordering room service, getting caught watching the “R” rated “Gong Show the Movie,” and marching up and down Stone Mountain.
Two summers ago I was in Atlanta for the day checking on some exhibit properties the company was wasting money on for storage. It happened that the warehouse was one exit past where we had stayed. I dropped by the hotel only to realize, again, that my years on the road had made me a snob. These days it is a run down old place that has just changed hands in the middle of everything suburban. Atlanta had grown around the once remote location to gobble it up. That new airport is overcrowded and the tram speaks seven languages in three different voices.
There was a time when DB Cooper could pay cash for his ticket to walk on board his flight, when everyone got drinks and a meal for little or no extra charge, the stewardesses were not surly and “there for our safety,” when cereal box tops could buy a ticket on an out of business airline, and there was a time when a wife could kiss her husband good-bye at the gate to remind him just what he was coming home for.