Flying. I’ve never liked the take off. Landing doesn’t bother me, but the minute the plane starts to taxi and then pick up speed, I have a problem. Maybe it’s because I don’t properly understand physics; maybe it’s because I lack a parachute strapped to my back, but every time the wheels of the aircraft leave the ground, I have to squinch my eyes and convince myself that magic is real, and that the pilot is a wizard coaxing the steel behemoth into the air.
As soon as we leave the ground I’m basically fine. If I’m lucky enough to fly in a situation where the earth below me is covered in clouds, I can convince myself that if the wizard-pilot were to lose control, we would fall into a giant, puffy bed of cotton. If I can see land, I just try to have an out of body experience and imagine myself on said land doing tasks fitting to the scenery. Passing over farmland? Clearly I’m picturing myself as a pioneer woman making her sod home, and roughing it out on the plain. Cities? I’m a high powered executive, or a street musician just trying to earn a buck to buy dinner. Clearly, if it’s a mountain range I’m flying over, I’m an intrepid explorer being all brave and not very like me at all.
The destination is always what draws me back into the air. I’m leaving one life behind for a few days, and I’m meeting another one in a different city. At home I may be confined to certain parameters, I may be defined by what I do and my daily routines, but in the new city I can be anyone. For awhile, I live a life less ordinary, a life where I leave monotony behind, and spend some quality time excitement, and adventure.
Landing isn’t a problem. I trust gravity. Gravity has gotten the better of me several times. I know that it will pull me back to earth, and that makes landing seem okay, safe, and familiar. When I was younger, maybe twelve or thirteen, I was flying into the Boise airport with my family. I think it was just my mom and dad, at least I’m pretty sure my dad was also there, which means we were probably coming back from the east coast and visiting my sister in New Jersey. It’s hard to say though, it could have been a different trip. Anyhow, we were getting ready to land, and suddenly the plane banked sharply. I was on the side of the plane facing the ground, and I saw the wing tip dive as the body of the aircraft rotated around like it was a stunt plane and not a giant passenger jet. It was terrifying (but not too terrifying being that I was still very young, very unconcerned about my general end happening in flames, and pre 9/11). The pilot boomed over the intercom that another plane had tried to land on our runway at the same time from the opposite direction, and that we would be taking to the skies once again and circling a few more times. Needless to say, there were a few distraught ladies about, and when we went to land again there was a collective sigh of relief and general unclenching when the wheels touched the runway. Oddly enough, that didn’t change the way I feel about landing. Landing is fine. I enjoy it. It is great.
So, let’s review: Airplanes are a great means of travel and escape. Taking off makes me believe in magic and curse my lack of knowledge in the area of physics. Finally, even after a near death (yeah, sure, maybe not… but maybe) experience, still not scary, still awesome.