“Can I have an iPad?” my five-year-old son asked, spotting a member of the cabin crew coming down the aisle. “Me too?” said my eight-year-old daughter. We were on a flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast, which, according to the pilot’s announcement, would only take one hour and thirty-seven minutes due to a favourable tail wind. Hardly a long journey. “Why don’t you just look out the window?” I suggested. “We’re above the clouds! You’ve never seen the tops of the clouds before!”
It was the first aeroplane the kids had ever been on. Leading up to the departure they had been so excited and also very nervous, and they couldn’t wait to be on a real jet. But here they were, half an hour into the flight, asking for iPads. Had the novelty really worn off that quickly? Was the prospect of having a screen truly more exciting than being 11km off the ground?
According to our in-flight entertainment menu, iPads could be hired for the duration of the trip. “They cost ten dollars!” I said, hoping the absurd price might put the kids off. But before we left, their grandmother had kindly given them $50 each, so they were feeling extraordinarily rich. “I don’t care!” my son said. “I want to get one!” I’m pretty sure this is exactly the response the airline company bosses hoped for.
Although I knew I shouldn’t dictate what the children could and couldn’t buy, it seemed such a shame to spend so much before we’d even reached our destination. “Okay,” I said, putting on my serious negotiation voice. “How about this: if you both have ten dollars left at the end of the holiday, you can get iPads on the flight home.” Amazingly, they both agreed. Then they spent the rest of the trip analysing the safety instructions, wriggling, moving the tray tables up and down and saying, “Are we there yet?” repeatedly. The snacks I’d packed lasted all of about seven minutes. We might have been flying, but time was certainly not.