Friday, April 24, 2009

Passing through Gatwick airport last month, I was reminded of the first time I ever went there. Back in 1977 I had a friend who was traveling to America on Freddie Laker's Skytrain - while I had a summer job on the south coast - he was flying out on the same day that I had a day off. On the spur of the moment I took an unplanned train up to Gatwick. At the time I had never flown myself, and hadn't really ever been to a real airport of any size, so I was interested just to have a look around as well as thinking it would be fun to see my friend off. All I knew about his plans was the time of his flight and I had a vague idea that I could just wander around the airport and find him. Even back then Gatwick was quite a size, and I soon realised that I wouldn't be able to track him down. However, in those days it was possible to have people paged, and I wrote down my message for him and handed it in to the public service announcer. He arrived at the meeting point within a few minutes of the announcement, in a panic that there was a major problem that was going to stop him flying. We had a good laugh about it over a beer before he flew off.

The thing that strikes me about this story is how it shows what a different world that we live in now. Mobile phones have changed the way we live our lives so much. Without them, our environment would be very different. I wonder if the old system of having people paged in public places would still be in place? Do you remember those announcements? "Would Mister Joe Blogs please go to the meeting point where his daughter is waiting to meet him..." when did they end?

It's hard for me to imagine a time when I had never been on a airplane, and the idea that I would choose to go to an airport for fun is so alien to my life now that it makes me wonder how much of that teenager is left in me now. Have we become different people?

What a long time ago this all must have been...

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