Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thoughts from a Cruising Altitude of 39,000 Feet

1. I wish I could sleep on planes. Even for a minute, or twenty, or three hundred. It’s stupid, but I’m convinced that if I close my eyes, if I’m not absolutely vigilant, there’s no way the plane can stay up. In fact, the second I start to relax and close my eyelids, I immediately snap back awake, worried. Who’s flying this thing?

2. I wish I could read on planes. I read everywhere else – waiting in line at the grocery store, lying in bed, sitting with a bowl of cereal in the morning. I’ve been tempted to read while stuck in traffic. But on planes I can’t seem to focus on plot and character. Instead, I alternate between Hidenko and Sudoku. On this trip, one round of “Fiendish Sudoku” lasts me all the way across Utah.

3. I love the individual mini-screen. Thumbs up, Delta! I keep flashing to the “My Flight” screen to see what I’ve missed. We’ve passed Grand Junction and are flying just south of De Beque. Somewhere in the last ten minutes while I was worrying about whether or not our plane had properly functioning landing gear, our cruising altitude had increased from 39,003 to 39,010 feet. Pretty cool.

4. The man in the seat beside me, Leo, is traveling with nothing other than a jacket. Hello? No book or magazine? No sudoku? No crossword puzzle? I once drove cross country with someone who intended to talk the entire way, so naturally I was worried. But Leo isn’t in a talking mood, either. Instead, we play a dozen silent games of in-flight trivia. I feel bad that I keep winning and briefly consider throwing a game, because everyone should be happy. Everyone should know they are doing well at something, right? But in the end, I just can’t do it.

5. Nothing is free on Delta Airlines. Not the charge for an extra bag ($50), the headphones ($2), or the snack packs ($3 to $5, depending). “Delta Airlines has gone cashless,” a flight attendant chirps into the PA system. “All purchases must be made with a credit card for your convenience.” My convenience? Really, nothing about air travel is geared for my convenience, much less a $1 Visa charge for a $2 purchase.

6. In the first half-hour of the flight, we are fed two packs of peanuts and our choice of beverages. Three hours pass before it occurs to the flight staff to come through with another round. By this time I’ve chewed fifteen consecutive pieces of gum, trying to suck out any possible nutrition or moisture. A flight attendant passes and I say, “Excuse me? Do you think I could get something to drink?” She is clearly annoyed. “We’re coming right through.” It takes her twenty-five minutes to reach me, though, and by this time my lips are one cracked blister. Leo doesn’t look too happy either. “I guess I’ll buy the snack pack, too,” I say, surrendering my credit card.

7. Once the plane lands, I can finally relax. It’s hard work, mentally keeping the plane aloft, and not for weaklings. Everyone stands at once, snapping open overhead compartments and jostling for space in the aisle. I stretch, curling my toes inside my boots. What’s the hurry, people? We’re all getting off this thing sooner or later.

No comments:

Post a Comment