Having recently read The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, I am in mind of flight and its historical implications. A few years back, my wife and I visited Kitty Hawk on a suitably blustery day. We took in the site where the first powered flight took place. They even have markers showing the exact 852 feet that the flyer traveled. I bought the commemorative T-shirt and a couple of postcards. I looked at all the diagrams and read and reread how manned flight works: thrust, drag, lift, weight, etc. Still hard for me to believe that heavy metal bodies can fly through the air with the greatest of ease. But then, I've never understood how microwaves cook without heat. "Devil's work!" as my father would say.
I am by no means a frequent flier, but am old enough to remember when flying anywhere was seen as a special and somewhat sacred occasion. In the fifties and early sixties, you actually got dressed up when taking a flight. Probably a suit coat and tie for guys and an appropriate dress for the ladies. Airlines such as Pan Am, TWA and Eastern (all long extinct) represented glamour and adventure when they took to the skies.
Two of the perks of those earlier flights were the food and leg room. On most domestic flights of a couple of hours or more, you were fed a decent meal: a full breakfast or complete lunch or dinner along with real silverware. Treatment on overseas flights was sumptuous. It was almost like they appreciated your business. Also, all seats were spaced so that you could stretch out your legs and not crowd the person sitting next to you. In flight movies were standard. The food, the leg room and the movies were included in the price of a ticket.
Skipping ahead fifty years ... You are on a four hour transcontinental flight. It cost you twenty-five bucks to check one bag. Your "free" food consists of a tiny bag of stale pretzels and a soda. There is minimal leg room and the seat is the width of a milk crate. You are seated next to a three hundred pound guy in shorts, flip flops and a wife beater which says, "Don't Screw With Me!" Personal hygiene is not his strong suit. Or you are sitting next to an old lady who has dumped an entire bottle of perfume over her head and on her lap in a travel carrier is a little pug ankle biter which sniffles continually. It cost ten bucks an hour for you to sign on to the airline Wi-Fi. The bathrooms are built for thin people who are all bones. Ain't progress great.
If the Wright Brothers knew what was to come: airplanes as lethal weapons of war, metal tubes that make sardine cans look roomy, maybe they would have stuck to building bicycles. At least with a two wheel conveyance you were in control of your own travel arrangements. And no extra charge for baggage.