Saturday, June 03, 2006

our personal pilot

I like airplanes. I take great pleasure in being forced to do nothing but read or write in my journal. I get annoyed if the passenger next to me wants to chat. I want to be alone with my books, colored markers, and my coveted window view.

But Nostalgia is afraid of airplanes, she is terrified of flying in them.

We're at the airport waiting for our flight to Denver. She is nervous and keeps putting her fist over her mouth or telling me stories of airport security breaches. When we arrive at our gate she turns to me and says, "Let's play the game of who's-the-terrorist." She then strides over to the window and skeptically surveys the gleaming flying machine we’re soon to board. The fuel pump in her car went out this week--which clearly means our airplane may exhibit the same behavior.

As we stand in line to board our plane the intercom broadcasts two detailed announcements about airplane mechanical problems--a mechanic is needed at gate 12, while the plane parked at gate 29 will need to be swapped out for a new one, the speaker cheerfully elaborates, "as this plane won’t be leaving the ground anytime soon." I fly a few times a year and never have heard these kinds of announcements before, or at least never listened to them. Nostalgia gives me a significant look.

We wait at the bottom of the ramp to board the craft. There is some sort of hold up. The woman behind us is holds a tabloid with a headline reading, "Going Postal!" in block caps. Then the captain strides out of the cockpit and walks over to small door off the ramp, opens it, and yells to the mechanics below, "Turn it off! Turn it off!" Nostalgia looks at me with huge eyes.

Finally seated near the rear of the plane, next to the window, I settle in for a long luxurious flight. I open my magazine while Nostagia leans forward, listening intently to each word of the safety instructions. Twenty minutes later we still haven't moved. Thunderstorms to the West block the air traffic window that all NYC airports use. Nostalgia grips my hand.

But then the improbable happens. The kindly Midwestern-looking middle-aged woman sitting next to Nostaliga turns to us. She tells us she is an international pilot for Continental airlines. She explains the delay, and why we need to wait. She gives details about what is dangerous and what is not. For the remainder of our flight, each patch of turbulence, each jolt, or turn of the craft is carefully explained by our personal pilot. Nostalgia grows noticeably calmer.

I turn to the window and gaze at the hazy patches of green and yellow below while Nostalgia buries herself in the New Yorker. The fuel pump seems to be working fine.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I love following your trip! This post about preparing for the flight is great. You had me laughing out loud. You tell Nostalgia she is a brave woman, and yes, there is a very direct connection between anything that goes wrong with our cars and what goes wrong with airplanes. Come to think of it, the last time I flew we had to have an emergency landing because the plane was running low on mister fluid.

Great photo of Nostalgia--so many people can relate to that!