Tag Archives: airplanes

Flight.

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So I’m in Georgia right now. My mom had neck surgery on Thursday and I flew out here for a week to take care of her as she recovers, but she barely needs me because she’s a champ and a major trooper. That’s just how my mom rolls.

ANYWAY, as I sat on the airplane on Wednesday morning waiting for take-off, I started thinking about how many times I’ve flown on an airplane in my life. I’ve probably taken close to one hundred flights in my twenty-four years, eighteen of which have been since January 1st of this year alone. That’s a lot of time spent up in the air. You would think that many flights would cause a person to become disenchanted with the novelty of flying, and I’ll admit that it does sometimes if I’m really sleepy or if I’m in an aisle seat, but whenever I sit in a window seat (which I did on this flight) I become a little overwhelmed by the phenomenon of flight and the things it enables me to see.

After I took my seat and other passengers continued to straggle on board, I started reading a book. I read it while the plane started backing up, and while the stewardesses gave their safety demonstration, and while the plane slowly ambled toward the position on the runway where it joins the queue and waits for a far-off voice from a radio tower somewhere to give them the go-ahead. But as soon as the plane started picking up speed and careening down the runway toward lift-off, I put my book down to focus on what was happening outside of my window. Because as much as I know that my plane crashing is a statistical improbability, I still always hold my breath a little as the nose lifts up and the plane’s tiny wheels leave the ground, as everything starts to go diagonal, as the pressure that pushes me back into my seat mounts, like the world itself is moving in the opposite direction that I am and trying to take me with it. It’s a feeling unlike any other, and as many times as I’ve experienced it, I still get nervous during the first couple minutes of the ascent and find myself intently watching for the fasten-seatbelt light, the sign that everything will probably be okay, to come on, just like Diane Court in Say Anything.

But then once I’m up in the air, when the plane has plateaued and the fasten-seatbelt light glows a reddish-orange aside the esoteric no-smoking light, its like that nervousness never happened at all. I’m free to look out the window without worry, and when I do, it’s like I’m whirring through an alternate dimension where everything my eye perceives as big becomes infinitesimal. Believe it or not, this flight was the first I can remember that has started out flying northerly, so we flew over downtown Seattle’s skyscrapers and the Space Needle, and then headed east across Lake Washington and the floating bridge and rolling hills of evergreen and over the jagged snow-capped mountains, and it all looked small enough to fit in my palm. It was easily the most majestic and breathtaking view I’ve ever had from a plane. And even as I continued to fly east, I marveled at how the tiny little houses were arranged in perfect grids like graph paper, how the variegated tones of brown farmland fitted together like patchwork, how those white windmills that stand imposing as giants looked the size of a sliver I might pull from my finger. If you’re ever in need of some perspective, look down from three-thousand feet: everything on this earth can be made to feel small.

There’s a quiet magic in flying, a magic that doesn’t boast or draw attention to itself. Even as I watched this miraculous landscape pass by me in miniature, I never gave a thought to the fact that I was sitting inside a metal bird that weighed tons but, through a series of complex processes that I’ve never even attempted to understand, somehow managed to make itself airborne and to soar through the sky with what appears to me to be relative ease. I get to sit down and read a book and have someone bring me something to drink as if I were at home with my mother, and sure, maybe it feels a little crowded, but it mostly just feels really normal. Tell me that isn’t magic!

travel log: 10 december 2009.

6:21 am (pst): josh and i made it to the airport with barely a minute to spare before our flight started boarding. neither of us wanted to leave the warmth of our beds at 4:30 this morning. and it didn’t help that drew drove us to the airport in his car that has no heat. all the employees at the airport were nice to us because we dressed up. there was a man working the security checkpoint who looked like the dad from fresh prince of bel-air. i got scolded for putting my carry-on bag on top of my laptop when I put it through the machine…. there are so many rules, i can never get it right. the flight attendant has informed us that it is -2 degrees in minneapolis. wonderful.

12:35 pm (cst): i slept for half of the flight, despite the fact that i can never find a comfortable position on an airplane and my head is constantly and sleepily bobbing up and down. apparently, someone on our flight was experiencing an undisclosed medical emergency that required the flight crew to ask over the intercom if there were any doctors on the plane. so this woman, who was apparently a doctor, kept going back and forth between her seat and the back of the plane (where the afflicted person was, no doubt) with doctor’s gloves on. once we landed, an emt crew came on the plane and we had to wait for them to do their business before we could leave. hopefully the afflicted person is okay. once we got off the plane, it took us fifteen minutes and a lot of walking to find a reader board with the flight schedules… and then there were two of them like twenty feet away from each other. come on, minneapolis: make it a little easier for us. for an airport in minnesota of all places, there were a lot of ritzy airport stores, and even a minnesota-themed store with a giant wooden moose emerging from the storefront. there was a lot of snow on the ground outside, and everyone was wearing big long coats a la fargo.

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4:22 pm (est): the flight from minneapolis to detroit was just barely an hour long. josh and i didn’t have seats next to each other: he sat next to a gorgeous blonde four-year-old, and i sat next to what I assumed was a disgruntled ex-serviceman. he didn’t acknowledge me the entire plane ride; he did, however, listen to incredibly loud metal on his ipod and ordered two jack daniels and a coke when the beverage cart came around. yikes. apparently he was not interested in being conscious. the detroit airport was really nice and they have an elevated monorail that runs inside the airport. we walked around for a long time trying to find food before josh admitted that he wasn’t actually hungry (much to my chagrin), so we just got coffee and waited for the flight to board, whilst listening to two talkative high school kids tell a creepy older man about travelling to europe. i got restless, so I went to the magazine stand, and upon seeing lady gaga on the cover of elle, could not resist a purchase.

8:55 pm (est): our flight got a late start because the pilots decided to wait for people connecting from seattle, whose flight was running late also. i have never heard of a pilot doing that, and i’m certain that no pilot has ever thought of doing that for me when i was in danger of missing my connecting flight. i was happily reading my elle until josh complained that I wasn’t paying attention to him, so I quickly leafed through the mag only to find that he was asleep by the time i was done. figures. then i fell asleep for an hour or so, experiencing extreme neck pain upon waking up due to the head bobbing again. we had a rocky landing, but made it to jacksonville alive. my mom, brother and uncle picked us up and we stopped at chick-fil-a (since josh and i hadn’t eaten all day during our travels) for dinner, and then drove two hours home. and now we are in savannah, and very sleepy but happy, and watching identity on the syfy channel. the end.