Saturday, February 21, 2009

Up In An Airplane

Up on the airplane, nearer my God to thee, I start making a deal inspired by gravity - Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)

The other day when I was out walking with Rigby, something above caught my eye. Like a faint ghost, a big passenger jet was carving a trail through the bright, blue morning sky. I thought about the scores of people, all the souls inside that distant plane. Some, maybe sitting with their seats reclined and their Ipods on. Maybe someone's reading a book that I've read or chatting with the attendant. Somebody's eating peanuts and having a diet Coke or a chardonnay.
Many of the flights that originate out of Logan airport pass right over my little town. At night they can be seen approaching from the east with big, bright lights ablaze, like high beams. As they get nearer, the big lights suddenly go out and just the blinking red and green lights seem to stay on.
I don't like to fly. Even though I know that air travel is vastly safer than car travel, I'd prefer to take my chances on the ground, rather than at 30,000 feet.
The take off is always the worst for me. In my car, I feel that I have some degree of control over what happens. In the air, I am at the complete mercy of the pilot, who I've never met and know nothing about. For all I know, he could have just taken three Ambien and washed it down with a couple of whiskey sours after a fight with his ex-wife. I guess this probably means I'm a control freak, I don't know. Plus, there's that whole "gravity" thing. I have no understanding of physics, really.
As the plane starts to move, I clutch my rosary beads, scapula or a prayer card and shut my eyes. I'm chomping gum to try and pop my ears before the altitude does it for me in a more painful way. My stomach flip-flops. I pray silently as we taxi down the runway, and I hold my breath until we are up and we level out. The landing is no piece of cake either, but it's usually not as traumatic for me as take-off.
That morning as I looked up at that plane, I was reminded of the last flight I took.
I was traveling down to Florida with my sister and one of my brothers to attend the wedding of our nephew in a town near Tampa last November. The take-off had been as smooth as silk and we were waiting for the attendants to come back with our drinks. I watched as the Earth fell away from my window, then took a deep breath and glanced around the cabin. I caught my brother's eye and asked, "How're you doing?" He answered, "Wondering how the heck it's possible that we are rocketing through space in this metal cigar."
I laughed out loud because I have had that exact thought many times. It seems like such a crazy, improbable thing to be doing, and if you didn't know for a fact that such a thing is possible, you'd never believe it, would you? A big, steel tube weighing thousands of pounds, filled with more than a hundred people and their stuff, taking off from the ground and speeding through the air, then safely landing at your destination. It's nuts.
That was a great trip, because not only did we get to see our other brother and our two nephews and experience the wedding, we also got to spend a few days together, just the three siblings without our spouses or kids. We really had a good time and a lot of laughs together. Even though I really couldn't afford the trip, I knew it would be a rare experience that I would not want to miss, and I was right. It was so worth it, and I'm glad I made the decision to go.
Everytime I look up and see those passenger jets overhead, I am reminded how so many things that we take for granted in our every day lives are actually so incredible. Really makes it seem like anything is possible.


  1. Thanks for stopping by to comment on one of my posts. I have enjoyed reading here. I've often thought the same things about airplanes, wondering about all those people making sky journeys and how improbable it all is. I have to admit that taking off is one of my favorite parts of flying. I love that split second when we are both airborne and still low enough to be part of earth. And once we're in the air, I love to look down on the clouds that seem so much like ocean sand, all drifted and sculpted. Landing is my least favorite part!

  2. Ditto! When a person really sits and considers the act of traveling by flight (easy for birds, not so easy for us earth-bound humans), it really IS so amazing. Yet, I too hate flying. Mostly because I'm not in control. I'M not flying the plane. I love to drive when I'm in control, behind the wheel, but put me in the passenger seat, and I might as well be in an airplane! This was a wonderful post -- love your blog!

  3. I feel the same thing when I look up and see an airplane. I'm afraid to fly, same control issues as Karen mentioned, but also because it seems so unreal, like you said. " It seems like such a crazy, improbable thing to be doing, and if you didn't know for a fact that such a thing is possible, you'd never believe it, would you? A big, steel tube weighing thousands of pounds, filled with more than a hundred people and their stuff, taking off from the ground and speeding through the air, then safely landing at your destination. It's nuts."
    My sentiments axactly!

    Thank you for visting my blog!

  4. Pauline - You are a braver soul than me! I enjoy your blog also. Thanks for commenting!

    Karen and Wildeve - Yes, control has to be part of it - we trust ourselves a lot more than we trust others, I guess. Thank you for coming by and reading - I enjoy your blogs too!

  5. Hi Deedee, Thanks for your comments on my blog. Charli is a mini schnauzer. She weighs in at 10 lbs. Your little Rigby is a darling ♥ Charli would just love to play with him as long as she remains the boss of course :>) I enjoyed reading your post. Yes, when we think of all the things going on in the world we know anything is possible. I would never get on a plane though LOL

  6. Wow - I never knew mini schnauzers came in white - She's beautiful! Rigby is 21 lbs and she wouldn't mind if Charli were the boss! She's very shaggy at the moment-I'm waiting for the weather to warm up before I get her clipped. Thank you for stopping by!

  7. if man were meant to fly he'd have wings......yes, flying is safer than driving but i would rather have a fender bender in a car than an airplane.....jc

  8. What a lovely and thoughtful post.
    I really enjoyed this so very much and I love the Indigo Girls :)

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  9. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog, I'm so glad you came as now I've found yours. I love your blog, you write so well with such humour :-)

  10. Take-off is rough for me too. I grip the armrests so tightly, I'm sure I have a positive effect. And off we go!

  11. Hi DeeDee, thanks for visiting my blog!
    I don't like to fly but I do it when I absolutely want to go somewhere... and most times I want to go somewhere it is an overseas trip which means l-o-n-g flights.. I go stir crazy on the plane..

  12. Hi JC - yes, flying for me is a necessary evil!

    Hi Reggie, Lyn and Robyn! Thanks for coming by - you make my day!

  13. Dear Deedee, I am not afraid of flying, but...BELIEVE!!!! I am afraid of travelling by car during the holidays here in Brazil. Last year the government imposed a fine to people that drive drunk. It is common some accidents in the roads to the beaches or countrysides where all members of one family dies, because someone drunk was driving another car and hit the car of the family. It is really sad. I have many friends in São Paulo that don´t travel by car on long holidays like Carnival.
    Best wishes,

  14. Yes Rosana, that happens here terrible! Be safe!

  15. I feel exactly as you do about flying but I have to do it otherwise I'd never see my daughter. Really enjoyed looking through your blog. I'll be back!