It was the picture felt around the world.

A young man in Delhi posted a photo on Twitter of his parents at home, packed, and ready for the airport — a full five hours before their flight, reports

"My parents at 10.33am for a flight at 3.10pm," read the caption to the photo, which showed the couple waiting patiently at their dining room table while their luggage — including carry-on, and a handbag — was zipped up and ready to go.

The post has since been retweeted 14,000 times and liked 41,000 times.


One Twitter user @kartik73 made the point that "people always underestimate Indian traffic".

"In Mumbai, an hour drive can become a 3 hour nightmare. Better to be early & wait than miss a flight is my policy," they said.

And while that may be true, it doesn't explain why so many other people — from all over the world — related so strongly to the idea of mum and dad being over-prepared for the airport.

Twitter user @Slimfit said: "You've not met Nigerian parents. They are ready at the airport at 8am for 3pm flight."

Jennifer Austin from the US state of Oregon posted a text exchange with her mum in response to the tweet to show solidarity.

"Do you really need to be up 6 hours before your flight?" she asked her mother. Her mum replied: "Not my idea but will have some last minute things to do."

And therein lies the key: It's not so much parents, as one parent in particular — dads.

Another meme, which went viral earlier this year, would seem to support this theory.

Yup. Photo / Supplied
Yup. Photo / Supplied

"Oh my goodness, this is definitely a thing," Sydney psychologist Sharon Draper said. "My dad is included in this cohort!"

Could it be that these Baby Boomers have lived lives of such permanence — one job, one home, one, maybe two wives, tops — that an actual flight seems huge?

"Yes, this could definitely be a reason," Draper said. "Baby Boomers grew up in an age of growing affluence so being able to travel was a huge thing for them to do.

"Everyone fears being out of control and catching a flight is an experience that really takes you out of your comfort zone. 'Have you packed everything?' 'Do you have your passport?'"

But this doesn't explain why dads in particular are so uptight. The replies to the original tweet show it's not just the airport — there were tweets in reply about dads needing to be ready a day before catching trains, even buses, too.

"People in general don't like feeling out of control," Draper said.

"In this case, with the common experience of males being the breadwinner in a patriarchal society, it could be viewed as their responsibility to make sure they get to the airport on time."

But for male Baby Boomers, i.e. dads, who have been brought up to take control, and are used to being in control, the idea of not knowing what's happening, what's going to happen, or being able to tell people you know what's going to happen is a burden that is almost too much to bear.

It was a male Baby Boomer, Dr Phil, who told Oprah, "We choose the battles we know we can win", and for dads, who are used to literally being in the driver's seat, it could be that getting to a place on time to allow for mishaps, is their attempt at controlling the only part of the journey they are in charge of.

It's true, you know. Photo / Twitter
It's true, you know. Photo / Twitter

But it's not just old-fashioned ideas about being a provider, says Draper — the need for control also has its roots in the era they were raised in.

"Baby Boomers grew up in a time of increasing affluence and higher levels of income compared to that of their parents," she said.

"They would have still been influenced by their parents' cautious ways of managing finances as well as being risk averse."

Draper theorised that having a whole new world of affluence available to you, under the shadow of parents who likely survived a depression, and World War II, makes for a recipe of great excitement, tinged with fear that it could all be taken away at any moment.

That was, after all, the philosophy throughout the Cold War: one bomb and it's all gone.

So the next time your dad, (or your husband or older brother) tells you need to get somewhere 25 hours early, you might reassure him that we live in different times, where technology is your friend, and impermanence is the norm.

And then wait a second for him to tell you he doesn't care about all that millennial crap because if you miss your flight, he knows he's the first person you'll call.

And he's right.