TAoD tour, day 4
One of the frustrations of flying is seeing something from the air and having no one at hand to ask for an explanation. Which mountain is that? What are those weird circles? And over Texas, why has someone shaved the vegetation along perfectly straight lines, with no awareness of paved roads crossed and feed lots skirted? To fight brush fires, and perfectly straight because they were built by descendents of the ancient Romans?
Now if I could just figure out a) what is that huge area of nothing but dark gray sand and rock we flew over, and b) why there are cities plunked down in the middle of it.
The first time I flew was a trip, all by myself at the age of fifteen, to Sea/Tac from San Jose to spend some time with my father. I was sitting next to a soldier going back to Fort Lewis (where my son would be stationed, thirty-eight years in the future) who couldn’e2’80’99t have been more than nineteen himself, no doubt en route to Vietnam. Such romance, for a shy teenager.
Planes have transported me to London and Port Moresby, Easter Island and Jerusalem, Tonga and Barcelona. I have flown half a day in a plane that holds more people than some towns I’ve lived in, and I’ve flown an hour in a plane so small, a sack of potatos had to be offloaded to compensate. I’ve walked off into air-conditioned buildings and onto steaming tarmac, and once onto a grassy slope that, when time came to leave the mountaintop mission, meant that the plane reached take=off speed just by rolling, and then had to flip into a wingtip pirouette at the bottom of the hill lest it cross the chasm and smash into the opposite hillside–the larger (ie, unportable) scraps of previous airplanes served as a reminder to the pilot.
All you have to do is submit to the will of the airlines, turn over your life and luggage to the skill of a man with stripes on his arm, and walk out to’e2’80’94magic!
So why have the airlines permitted the romance of travel to fade from flight? Sure, plane travel is so commonplace even grandmothers climb on board, but surely the PR folk could have got some mileage out of making people THINK it was still exciting? Like, building airports that aren’e2’80’99t a nightmare to be stuck in, and where half the time a passenger can’e2’80’99t even see the planes taking off.
Because air travel really is a thrill, if you can step back and see it with new eyes. I’e2’80’99m sitting here in the Dallas/Fort Worth terminal, surrounded by tons of straining metal filled with human beings, with a lady to my left talking into the air about what her friend (who one assumes is not imaginary, but is on the other end of the phone that is sticking out of her ear) likes to read and how she really doesn’e2’80’99t like to be touched so she tensed up when the pedicurist tried to give her a massage, and to my right a gent from (I’e2’80’99d guess) Pakistan, in animated conversation with a friend in a language very like that of northern India, but intriguingly different. And here I am going to talk to people in Lexington, Kentucky about what I write, and all because the Wright brothers thought it would be ‘e2’80’98way cool to see if they could get that machine up in the air.
If that’e2’80’99s not romance, I don’e2’80’99t know what is.
See you in Lexington.