Airplane Thoughts

This past weekend, I was in San Francisco for work. Flew out there from Philadelphia on Friday afternoon and back on the Sunday red eye. On both legs, I slept some, read some and thought some. To pass the time, I wrote down the thoughts and share them here.

Only one worth sharing from the red eye. What kind of asswipe redirects all three fan nozzles toward himself while the only person he’s not related to in the row is sleeping? As the person in the window seat, I may have ended up waking his snoring wife when I stretched over her to redirect my nozzle back to me. I have no regrets. These others are from the trip out to SFO.

Flying to California at this hour, I feel like I’m chasing the sun. At home, it’s 8 pm. I’m over the dragon-backed Rockies so it’s about 6. I’ve watched the sun setting in front of me for much longer than the sun sets when one is on the ground. I know the sun will win this race, but a wisp of hope exists.

* * * * *

One of the things I like about flying is the timelessness of it. I don’t mean that in the sense that Orville and Wilbur flew and now look at little ol’ me. No, it’s an absence of time. I’m in a flying tube of metal and there’s none of the usual things to tell me how long I’ve been here. That’s not quite it. I can look at my watch, but it seems meaningless. I can look out the window (when the cloud cover isn’t thick), but the passing of the landscape doesn’t help either. The cliched patchwork of the Midwest appears to go slower than I know the plane is moving past it. And, let’s face it, unless you’re a geography whiz or the pilot is constantly telling you where you are, it’s hard to determine what state you’re over, let alone what town you’re over. This bizarre lack of time is why I don’t mind long flights. I could have been sitting here for 15 minutes or the actual 5 hours I have been sitting here. I read a chapter. I close my eyes for 10 minutes. Repeat. The flight attendants offer beverages. I read and mini nap again. Sometimes the plane is above a landscape. Sometimes we’re surrounded by clouds with no features. Like we’re in Nothing. The pure essence of the word. No turbulence, so no sense of movement. Nothing outside the window to say if the plane is high or low or traveling any distance at all.

* * * * *

I am always amazed when I fly over the Rockies. Not at their height. At 30,000 feet, height of ground objects doesn’t register. Nope, it’s their breadth that amazes me. They last forever after they spring up from flat fields. It may not be only the Rockies could be I miss the brief interlude between mountain ranges. But the mountains as a whole take up a lot of land. The explorers and the pioneers were brave, in that only the crazy would attempt to cross that space without modern transport. The members of the Donner party really didn’t have a choice, did they?

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