Virgin America flight #27 is the one that goes from JFK to San Francisco, and I was taking it tonight. The flight was oversold but there were extra seats in Virgin’s “Upper Class”, so they offered one to me for free, to free a seat in coach for someone flying standby.
Beside me was a little kid named Joey, who was traveling alone, and who, like me, was bumped to first to free a seat in coach.
He was flying home to California from New Jersey, where he’d spent Christmas with his Mom. His parents got divorced a year ago, so he left his life in Jersey to go to California with his Dad.
I told Joey about the Ghiradelli hot chocolate on the menu. I showed him how to operate his folding TV and his complicated table. I talked him through some nasty turbulence, and explained the seat belt sign. He told me about his parents, about the Skype video calls, and the two lives he has to live on opposite ends of the country. He asked me how old I was and when I told him 32 he said that yeah, that's the same age as his Dad.
When we started our descent and our ears began to pop, I showed him how his plastic water bottle crumpled from the pressure, and he thought that that was pretty cool and smiled.
He was looking out the window, and then he turned to look at me.
“It’s kind of amazing,” he said. “We just went from one end of The United States to the other. I can see the ocean.”
“That's right,” I said. “Coast to coast.”
“It’s so far, so fast,” said Joey.
“Just think before they had planes. The fastest way was probably a train.”
“Yeah,” said Joey. “It would have taken, like, days and days.”
“And just think before they had trains. Like back in the days when they were putting this country together, guys like Ben Franklin would have to go by boat to Europe.”
“He must have been gone forever.”
“Yeah, it was like, okay, I’m off to Europe, see you in a couple of years.”
“That’s funny,” said Joey, smiling a little.
“He would just leave his wife behind for a couple of years while he was in France, and she would take care of the family.”
“And now we do it so fast,” said Joey. “We can go all around the world in, like, seventeen hours.”
“Well, maybe someday we’ll be able to teleport and do it instantly.”
“Whoa,” said Joey, smiling wider. “That’d be cool. How would that even feel?”
“Maybe it would be kinda like TV. It could just turn you into static, transmit you, and then bring you back together once again.”
“That’d be so cool.”
“But I’m not sure that’s necessarily right around the corner.”
“But still, that’d be so cool. I could have one in California and one in New Jersey, and that would make it really easy with my Mom and Dad. I’d be, like, right there. That would make it so easy.”