Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When flying was classy—but really, really slow - Boing Boing:

"You're about to make your first air trip? Well, it's high time. A few more years and there'll be scarcely a thrill left in it."

Thus, presciently, begins Popular Mechanics' June 1939 story about what it's like to take the United Airlines "sleeper" cross-country from New York to San Francisco—in only 15 hours. The piece manages to elicit both a painful nostalgia for a classy, Cary Grant-y world most of us never experienced, while, simultaneously, serving as a reminder that, in many ways, we've got it pretty good today (Grandpa's barca-lounger style plane seat, not withstanding).

Wait, we've got it good? Oh, yes. I mean, obviously, it's not all peaches and sunshine up in here. In 1939, for instance, checking in seems to have involved merely a reservation call and a cash transaction—and you only had to be there one hour ahead of time. But I, for one, am pretty happy that my last plane flight (Minneapolis to San Francisco) didn't involve paying more than $2000, publicly disclosing my weight to the gate agent (and everybody in line behind me), or dealing with a plane full of smokers. Also, the airlines seem to have been just as stingy with luggage back then as they are today. And the plane stopped in about four other cities between Chicago and San Francisco, like it was the freaking Megabus.