Thoughts on Flight

It’s difficult to get over the idea of air travel once you start rolling through it in your mind, after all the rush of conveying your possibly overpacked bags through the airport, into the shameful meat grinder of security–shoeless, beltless you being marched through like benign cattle for scanning and tagging and the suspicious eyeing over. After everything, after you deal with feeling violated by an over-macho security state, you settle into the waiting room for your flight tube. You begin to think about said flight tube.

You will soon be hurtling through the air at unthinkable speeds, listening to the latest episode of This American Life or Serial or [insert newest storytelling radio show here] and actively ignoring the “in case of horrific malfunction” aisle play that you were supposed to extricate your earbuds for. Your sense of fear of heights somehow diminishes as you ascend into the sky, the landscape below becoming more and more abstracted and less real. You marvel at its beauty, a beauty only understood at such great heights, and the tube you travel in and marvel from is pressurized to around 6,000 feet above sea-level (you barely ever give this a thought).

You and 150 strangers speed toward point B, complaining to yourself or your temporary neighbor about how uncomfortable you are, or how you weren’t awarded with the usual cookie you so depended on in these 4 hour flights through the stratosphere. If you think about it enough, you become embarrassed to be complaining. This was inconceivable just a century ago. The descension is an emotional experience, if subtle. Each chunky drop leaves you behind a little, you slowly suck in air to maybe pull yourself back into you, and again, and again. It’s a feeling that mixes with the sense that you are nearly there, it is nearly over, you are still here but thousands of miles further from where you first were when you sat down.

Inside all those who choose to think of it is the splitting of possible futures, all the experiences from mundane to tragic, splitting off into a legion of what-could-be. You could find your end out there, scattered on some poor family’s rooftop. You could relieve yourself from fear of a sudden drop before a fair landing, only to steep in the cooling shame of your deed. Luckily, you land, alive and unstained. Your legs tingle as you stretch them out. You take your phone off airplane mode and nose into it for messages of your immediate future, of drinks and foods and land transportation to come. Single file out and push off thinking about the flight tube until it is again thrust upon you.

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