Yesterday, we headed into town with a mission. On the surface, it looked to be a simple enough one, if slightly bureaucratic. The ultimate goal was to get a passport for Short Stack. I’m fully aware that air travel within the United States does not require this and that additionally, due to his age, very few people would even be looking for this, but I wanted to try and get this done for a few reasons, both emotional and paranoid.
The personal aspect of this endeavor was simply out of my own inevitable nostalgia. As a young child, I was blessed with parents who not only had the means to take their only son on trips interesting and far ranging, but also the inclination and trust to do so. At the age of four, I was introduced to the concept of stepping into an aluminum tube and strapping in, ready to be hurled through the air at mind numbing speeds. It was a long trip as well, starting in Boston, Massachusetts and eventually ending up in Honolulu, Hawaii. At this point, I’m not entirely sure if I remember the flight or not. The story of it has been retold and retold so many times by family and my self that the validity of my mental picture cannot be vouched for any more. The passing of time and the reality that I would later spend a great deal of time on other flights has blended the images in my mind until resembling a suffusion of smiling stewardesses, crisp uniforms, the ever present hiss of the engines and the inexorable draw of the rear galley.
I have never been a shy individual and with the shamelessness and ignorance of youth, I made for an extremely outgoing child. Raised to be respectful toward adults and always interested in what ever was going on around me, I had a tendency to make friends my parent’s age or older where ever I went. My Mother and Father quickly became used to having random strangers walk up to them and say, “Oh, you must be Matthew’s parents”
It was a different age then, as it always is, and for better or worse, people didn’t worry so much about having their children being snatched away at an unobserved moment or making eye contact with people unknown. Kids could venture farther a field and make their own way. I always tended to seek out adults rather than kids my own age. The logic was simple. When you are a kid, you don’t need to complete with an adult. There’s no vying for who’s the alpha in the relationship and who will be relegated to tagging along. You didn’t need to worry about appearing uncool or unknowledgeable simply because that’s not the way the power flowed and if you could side step all this social foolishness, you could simply get right into whatever subject you were interested in.
For whatever reason, I remember a lot of adults I interacted with finding this to be both amusing and endearing. What it got me was someone to talk with whom I never met before and whom I probably never would again plus the chance to see and do a lot of really neat stuff that the shyer or more kid-centric of my peer group could only imagine. It also kept me from getting too bored.
On the series of flights, first taking my family and me across the country and then again, over the ocean to a place I’d never dreamed of before, I spent much of my time chatting away with the ladies (and they were almost universally ladies, back then) who were in charge of the passengers care and feeding. Since they were the only visible adults who were actually doing anything, it was an easy choice who to hang out with. They also all looked pretty to me. Like I said. Easy.
After the little, plastic novelty wings were pinned to my sweater, I did what I always did. I asked if I could help. It only made sense, right? I was a steward now. I even had the wings to prove it. Somewhere along the flight, some flight attendant decided to let me at it and really start to help. Being only about three feet tall, there wasn’t much I could actually accomplish but there was one job they were probably happy to pass off on the new help.
I was shown how to tell when a passenger had pressed their call button and given the assignment of going to find out what the person in seat 23B wanted. Once the order was given to me by the startled occupant, who was no doubt expecting someone a bit taller and leggier, I would scurry back to the galley and report to the smiling ladies what was needed. Once mixed, they’d set it on a tray and as carefully as a four year old could, I’d deliver it back to the bemusement of everyone who noticed.
Back then, it was cute and funny. Now, someone would be calling child services and the airline would fire anyone within a fifty mile radius.
Like I said, it was a different time.