ABC is advertising their new period drama Pan Am as putting the glamor and excitement back in flying, and while I don't necessarily agree that it makes flying look glamorous (but I could see how it would feel that way at the time), it definitely gets me all riled up, wanting to take a trip in the sky somewhere. But the second I head to an airline's website to actually book something, I am slapped in the face with the cold, hard reality that air travel is now a chore, not a privilege.
But with Pan Am, all of the magic is back, even if this time it might be the magic of Disney instead of an actual reflection of the time period. I want to live in Pan Am-- in the time that seems to stand still within the plane. I imagine that's a testament to what one who actually got to travel on those jets felt-- the joy of soaring through the air, the giddiness at being able to have a party in the sky, the endless possibilities on the other end of the world, wherever they landed. The show truly captures the spirit of excitement, of "we're on the verge of something great and we're lucky enough to be along for the ride" that the young men and women who controlled the planes experienced.
Pan Am is everything I ever wanted in a story about an airline. See, from a young age I was always obsessed with all things aviation-- from the airplanes themselves to the airport. When I would travel, flight attendants would hand little boys my age or maybe even a bit older pairs of plastic wings and escort them to see the cockpit. I was a girl, though, so it wasn't expected that I would want those things. The sexism of the sixties should have been long-dead, but somehow it got stuck in the circulation in the steel tube in the sky. It was okay, though. I would lift the shade on the window and stare out at the clouds, daydreaming about where I was going-- and where I could someday go-- and all that would happen when I finally got there.
Years later when I was on my screenwriting kick, writing script after script that lived somewhere in between the world of tepid independent film and epic TV pilot, I drafted one about airline workers and the passengers that sat before them. You never really know what's going on in a person's head, but suddenly, there you are, shoved into a tiny vestibule of space for hours at a time with no escape. I thought it could breed exciting drama while set in a world that always fascinated me.
But I set it in present day, which at the time, was still post 9/11, when the security regulations had already been beefed up and the faces you saw shuffle along the seemingly endless lines at the metal detectors, at the corner newsstand, at the terminals were all scoffing and grumbling. Hardly a place one wanted to be. Hardly a place one would choose to spend time, even if just an hour or so each week. So I put the script aside, feeling like I had used my once legitimate love of flying as just another gimmick, designed to tell the same old story in a new setting.
Pan Am has now succeeded at what I could not, though, so I must tip my imaginary stewardess hat to them. Even if I can't pin on wings of my own while I watch each week.