I never really understood the style-statement girls like her try to make. What, really, is the point of wearing thick-rimmed D&G glasses without lenses, in daily usage? I have seen people doing it for high school themed club parties, which sort-of makes sense. And yet as she walked in behind me – both of us boarding the A320 mere minutes before flight departure – she looked spectacularly gorgeous in them. Although, at the time, I was busy feeling embarrassed about the angry glares I was getting from the other passengers at our tardiness.
The front section of the flight from Hong Kong to Singapore was packed. Seated in the last couple of rows though, both she and I had a whole row to ourselves. I was glad for the extra legroom, even though ours was a short four-hour journey.
Flying out of Hong Kong International Airport at night presents a breathtaking sight: as you take off, you can see Hong Kong’s harbours beneath you, with all ships and maritime vessels glowing bright from their on-deck lights. Like tiny little toys in a bathtub, they stretch out for miles; Hong Kong still remains one of the world’s busiest ports. Bees dancing a slow, complicated dance as they receded further below.
The seat belt sign was switched off…and I got down to my usual routine of transferring photos from my digital camera and processing them. (I colour-correct all pictures that I cough eventually cough upload, so I might as well get started.) Maybe I’d get time between this and a short nap to start my journal entry about this trip. It was about then that I noticed her in the row beside me, fiddling with a handful of photographs. They were Polaroid photos; vintage Polaroid when back in the day it actual meant instant film, rather than the whoreing out of the name to whatever cheap digital camera line the new owners of the company fancy. And it was at that moment – seeing a physical manifestation of memories – that my digital vault of pictures felt worthless in comparison. To not have to think twice before taking a picture is a concept that I found difficult to wrap my head around.
She had the actual Polaroid camera laid out on her tray table too. We started chatting about the camera (it’s such a thing of beauty!), photography interests, Hong Kong, horror films, Greek philosophers and whatnot. The flight felt too short for that conversation…but it continued beyond that.
I wrote earlier how the goalposts for social conversations had shifted; the act of sharing is what now defines a ‘Kodak moment’, and I have faith in the idea of a digital scrapbook, but she made me realise how much more powerful a physical artefact can be. A Twitpic isn’t a Polaroid taken aboard TR 2967. A note scribbled on a napkin at a restaurant serves much better as a memory than a hastily punched in note on a Foursquare check-in.
It has taken me long to realise this. I think I’m going to hold on closely to the notebook journal I’m building.