page this!

m. werneburg, 1998.02

This is a very short story. I'm telling it because it relates a response I've never been brave enough to try, to constant paging that I have myelf lived.

My family is dotted with pilots. To my knowledge, there were four power pilots in the last two generations, and two glider pilots. One of the latter told me this story, which dates to the early days of personal paging devices. That pilot shall remain nameless.

Having been assigned a pager, the pilot was expected to wear it 7x24, which he flatly refused to do. All intentions aside, he found himself plagued by incessant beeps one weekend when high in the air on a lengthy flight. Struggling to retrieve the pager while lying back in the cockpit, he fished the thing out, and did the only thing he could in the cramped space-he opened the tiny cockpit window and tossed it out.

I'm not certain that he was ever assigned another–certainly I never saw him with one (and he was my parent). But once on the gliding field he asked me to retrieve something from the spare tire well at the back of his station wagon, and I noticed a car phone. I asked him about it, and he said that it had been assigned by his luckless boss after the pager bore no fruit. To my knowledge–and I worked for this anonymous pilot for two summers–I don't believe the car phone was ever turned on.

P.S. Kids, this is a car phone. As I review this from the vantage point of 2019, when privately owned cars seem to be making way for driver-less vehicles order through a smartphone app, I realize that 1980's car phones must seem unimaginably useless but you have to remember that they were also unimaginably expensive to own, and insanely expensive to operate.