Friday, June 24, 2011

A ticket to Zambia

It isn't all that long ago that tickets were printed on something like sixduplicate sheets of carbon paper. I am worried that sixduplicate is an invented word, but I'll stick with it for now.

There was a very specific moment when each of the carbon copies could be ripped out, and I remember travelling with the dim apprehension that I would accidentally rip one out and be stranded in some malicious stop-over point between London and Sydney. Changes were written with extreme care and in mysterious code over tippex dabbled (I know, not a word either) on each of the sheets.

It really isn't long ago that this was standard, and yet these printed airline tickets already seem impossibly clumsy, quaint objects. But they held such magic. You kept them for years, because they were worth keeping - in a shoe box filled with postcards, concert stubs, museum catalogues, and badly folded maps. Tickets were just as specific to each journey as these other markers.

An e-ticket is still a ticket; and in fact just as exciting, even if it arrives by email and you print it out yourself on the K-Block Level 3 printer called FAC-12.

The e-ticket still holds the same promise, the same beckoning. It says you are going somewhere you haven't been before. What a promise that is! And that you will be tired, jet-lagged, smelling of too much "Tester" aftershave, burdened with a bottle of scotch you don't normally drink and don't really like, overfed with plane food, desperate for your hotel room, and yet awake in a way that only the novelty of travel allows you to be awake.

It says you're really doing it. You're really going to Zambia.