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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

thank you Mr. Stranger

Relatively speaking, I only recently became an air traveler. I mean, Japan was my first time on an airplane in about ten years. But since Japan, I am pleased to say I've been flying a lot. Pleased because I really enjoy flying.

I love airplane bathrooms, and airplane seats. I even love airports. 
And before anyone asks, I don't know how much of loving airports is organic and how much of it stems from watching Love Actually so many times, but I don't care. All the people, coming together. I like it. I read Up in the Air this past year and found myself wishing I had a job that required that much traveling.

And I realize if I did have such a job I probably wouldn't like it very much. And yes, I do get grumpy during long layovers.  I get frustrated that my plane is delayed.  I get mad when I can't find a decent cup of coffee. I wish the Wi Fi were free.

But, listen: for me, all that frustration melts away during the take off. 

I used to think it was obvious that everyone likes the take off. The way everyone loves sleep. Or breathing. But I guess it's not true, because I have now been on several flights where my seat mate goes to sleep before the plane even takes off. There he is, sitting next to this window, with his earbuds in, and his eyes shut. And me, trying to crane my neck around to see any bit of the landscape between the wing tip and his forehead and nose.

It drives me crazy. 

And I know, logically that these are nice people who did not intentionally and maniacally chose the window seat in order to waste the view. I also know that people aren't going to switch out of the window seat before a flight just in case another passenger loves looking out the window more than they do. 

But I've been flying for three years now and have still not gotten tired of watching the ground get further and further away. I will gladly give up a window seat for a friend who is also excited about the window seat, or a stranger who has never had a window seat (especially a child). But to sit sidekick to someone who doesn't so much as glance at the world outside the window is agonizing.

On a flight this past week from Chicago to New York I was in the middle seat. The man in the window seat shut the window shade and settled in to read a magazine. Defeated, I took out a book and tried to read.
As the plane began to roll I kept my eyes politely downward, but when we hit the runway and picked up speed I reflexively stared out the nearest window, trying to see something - anything, from my odd angle. 

The man noticed me looking and then he looked too, straining with the effort. Then, as if it just dawned on him, he opened our window shade. It was just in time for us both to watch as the ground became a blur and then a patchwork quilt. 

I smiled but he didn't look at me. He was looking out the window. 


liz said...

Even though flying has become more and more sucky and infuriating over the years, I still love it. I still feel, when I'm in an airport, as if I've never been in one before. I love waiting areas,, and airport bars. I love buying new books instead of bringing the unread ones I already have. The sense of potential and possibility just seems palpable... even though I know I'm going somewhere mundane, where I've probably been before, in theory I'm only a few feet removed from a spontaneous trip to Australia. Just being at the airport makes me feel totally in command of the world. Plus it's one of the most romantic places ever. And yes, I LOVED living near the airport. Loved.

I love takeoffs and landings, and also I'm always kind of disappointed when there's no turbulence during a flight. As someone who is afraid of literally everything, it makes no sense. But there you have it.

MischMash said...

"The sense of potential and possibility just seems palpable.."


We have never flown together. I think we should remedy that.

liz said... back here with me on Sunday!