Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Musings on Flight

Sometimes, I let myself think about air travel and it boggles my mind. How does the plane lift off? Is it the sheer speed that makes it take off? The same one that sucks everyone into their seats? Is there a rocket involved? And then, how does landing work? That bump-bump-ROAR of the landing always makes me draw my breath in all at once while wringing my hands. What is that learning curve like? And then parking afterward? I can barely pull into a space with my little car (forget parallel parking). I do not understand it. It doesn’t behoove me to ponder these lingering questions when I’m a passenger on a plane, but sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me.

At other times, I can see why people back in the day wanted to fly, resulting in funny bicycle-powered contraptions from those speckled, black and white reels with tinny piano music playing in the background. As my plane dropped down from cruising altitudes, I saw glimpses of the sunset over the San Francisco hills, burnishing the passengers on the left. Everything had tinges of gold – graceful, sloping bridges, straight, shiny skyscrapers, and seemingly miniscule cars on the freeway. I held my breath on the inhale, dazzled for a few moments. I couldn’t have seen all of this as a pedestrian in the street. Sometimes, the best view is from the top.

Then there are other times when I am absolutely sure why taking a train is my favorite mode of long-distance transportation. There are lots of trains, a short waiting period, and – most applicable today – no middle seats. There were only middle seats left on my flight when I booked it, so I picked one at random because being small means that I can fit into pretty much any situation coach seats throw at me. Unfortunately, I ended up next to a heavyset French woman who decided to forgo the armrest and essentially spilled onto my seat. It took all I had to maintain some semblance of courtesy as I gently nudged her chenille sweater to the left, brought the armrest back down while she was at the restroom, and shimmied to the right to give myself as much space as I could without getting all up on the man on my other side. I’m as affectionate as the next guy (with close friends and such, ahem), but for public situations, I definitely need my personal space. When the people on both sides of me took up the whole armrest and more, the bubble got a lot smaller and the six-hour flight seemed much longer.

In any case, thank goodness for fun co-workers, a yummy (and only $2!) cocktail, and a plateful of pasta. I won’t be good for much for too long. I can feel myself fading… Darn you, jet lag…

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