Jet packs represent an iconic idea of the future. We were promised—by whom, I don’t even remember anymore—by everyone who could make promises, I suppose, that we would all be zipping around with these by now. The new millennium was supposed to mark the turning point from the road to the sky in terms of daily transport—“where we’re going, we don’t need roads”.
Jet packs symbolize hopes, promises, and visions of the future, as well as the realities that keep those aspirations grounded. Still, jet packs do in fact exist, albeit imperfectly. What would reality look like if we integrated them into our lives?
If jet packs were readily accessible (practical, or at least vaguely affordable), they would become one of those items that indicate wealth, like porches and yachts. It’s difficult to imagine a persnickety, starched businessman whizzing through the air to a meeting; the average Wall Street type might worry about the effects a jet pack might have on his reputation—depending on the branding of the jet pack and how much it wrinkles a button-down shirt, being seen wearing one might be tantamount to getting caught in a designer suit and sneakers.
And what about the branding? Well, we’d see a lot more commercials, except they wouldn’t be as charming, and they’d be the type of metaphorical, rhetorical, image-crammed ads that take more than two minutes to figure out.
We’d see lots of commercials with eagles. Because flying a jet pack is like being an eagle, and it’s patriotic.
Companies would start giving jet packs dumb names—the Mercedes Altimeter, the Toyota Takeoff, the Lincoln Lift. The Testosterone, the Venus, the Blastoff.
And the insurance…collision or comprehensive?
Like cars, iPads, or any other pricey device, parents would give kids jet packs for their 16th birthdays. But then, who pays for fuel? Some jet packs run on hydrogen peroxide, though those better be for quick errands of thirty seconds or less.
The most advanced jet pack runs on gasoline and can hold out a full thirty minutes. Either way, the fuel situation will make the state of affairs at the gas pumps today look like Camelot.
There would be flying tests for new jet packers. The RMV, no longer bound to ground vehicles, would require people to demonstrate proficiency in maneuvering around maypoles or goalposts or old telephone poles. Maybe jet-packers would have to endure something like the vomit comet, or at least prove not to have debilitating motion sickness. We can skip the parallel parking test, but the landing exam would be no joke.
There would be laws governing jet-packer behavior, like helmet laws. Or maybe there wouldn’t be, which would generate taxpayer controversy. Roofs would be equipped with landing pads; during rush hour people would vie for runway space. We’d have special take-off zones with clear verticals—it’s not hard to imagine someone flying up into an overpass or awning or straight into a window or the side of a building like a blind or stupid bird.
There would be accidents; people would be charged with FUIs and jetpackular manslaughter. You’d have jet pack drag races. Rival jet-packer gangs (look out, Sharks). There would be laws preventing dive bomb by jet pack—how awesome would that be to swoop down upon some unsuspecting, poor pedestrian, maybe even dropping down some choice tidbits! Legislation would probably do away with that fun.
Every now and then, someone would simply drop out of the sky. Equipment malfunction? Fuel shortage? Kamikaze mission? Intrigue—thanks to the jet pack!
Don’t settle for a fair weather jet pack—get a wet pack, outfitted with an umbrella or a pack poncho. You could go to Chinatown for a knockoff jet pack case and make your jetpack look like a fire extinguisher or a Dalek or an elephant. On the way there, you could zoom to a fast food fly-thru for a quick nosh.
Surely, a movement will start—anything you can do on the ground, you can do in the air. Like get married, go trick-or-treating, attend a bail hearing (in flight court, of course), read, or have sex.
There will be that guy who tries to fly around the world. Or to space. He’ll finally give some competition to this guy, who currently holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest man in a jet pack
And young men will, sadly, use the jetpack in a misguided attempt at romance, hovering outside the window of their latest crush, looking less like John Cusack and more like the ghost of Jacob Marley. Or worse, Peter Pan.