Essays from an Adventure, Part 3: Up and Away

Submitted by Mary on Wed, 04/04/2018 - 01:10

We had arrived at the airport two hours before our flight, like you’re supposed to. The trouble is that with a tiny regional airport like Springfield, getting through security takes next to no time, and we found ourselves with an hour and a half to sit and wait.
Once again, Amanda seemed completely calm and relaxed and I was trying desperately to imitate her, even though my mind, emotions, and internal organs were churning.
I don’t remember much about the wait, other than Aaron calling me to ask how things were going and to tell me he loved me and how excited he was for me. I hung on every word, feeling an aching desire to soak up every little bit of contact with him that I could. We said goodbye when his work break ended, and I went back to waiting.
Amanda was reading a book, but I was too distracted by aggressively avoiding thoughts of what was about to come.
Excuse the cliché, but when our flight number was called, I was watching everything like a hawk. I felt it safe to assume that every other person present knew more about travelling than I did, so I watched everyone intently, terrified of doing the wrong thing, getting into the wrong boarding group (There are boarding groups?! Why have I never heard of this? Will I get in trouble if I get in the wrong one?), or failing to hear something important being said.
The line moved towards the tunnel-like doorway—a doorway that somehow seemed ominously magical. The lady at the desk was scanning passports. Here it was, the last test: What if my passport didn’t work? What if something went wrong and the whole trip had to be called off?
Cling! went the machine, and my ticket and passport were handed back to me, cleared for takeoff.
The tunnel was chilly and damp, and the sensation made me realize that I had expected it to be climate-controlled. Why, I wasn’t sure. I suppose I had just imagined the whole thing to be less…inelegant. Squeezing past the crew through the narrow doorway, through the plane’s kitchen area, and shuffling down the aisle to our seats, helplessly imposing upon the personal space of those already seated, was a far more close and clumsy business than I had anticipated.
Since I’d never flown before, Amanda stuffed me into the seat next to the window. I was a little unsure about the arrangement—yes, I’d be able to see out better, but what if that made it scarier? What if I freaked out when I saw the ground dropping away from me?
It was raining again as we taxied towards the runway. (So this was what taxying was like! I could finally use the word authoritatively, and I felt proud of myself for it!) The plane turned, and with my features smashed and one eyeball pressed against the window, I could finally see the runway ahead of us.
Since I was a tiny child, I have been afflicted with motion sickness. I can’t read, knit, or generally do anything that requires looking down while in a moving vehicle, or I end up with a dizzy headache and swirling nausea. The one time my dad thought it would be a great idea for a friend to take us flying over the lake in his single-engine, four-seater plane, I had felt fine…until the humiliating moment that I vomited with absolutely no warning.
Now, staring into the face of that mortifying memory, I sat rigid in my seat, a ginger mint already dissolving under my tongue while I clutched an entire tin of them in my lap.
I braced myself and waited…and waited…and waited.
I suppose I had imagined that we would just pull away from the gates, turn around, and take off. I wasn’t expecting to turn around, cross the airfield, and just sit there. This was Springfield, for goodness’ sake. The airport is literally in the middle of a bunch of cow pastures. How much traffic could there be to wait for?
If there is one thing worse than dread, it is dread on a layaway plan. Through the window, I became fixated on a blue light with a white metal stem, bolted into the ground at the center of a sandy circle beside the runway. I contemplated the way it was maintained, the way the sand was so neatly raked and the grass beyond that so perfectly trimmed. Every few seconds a droplet of panic would drip into my thoughts, reminding me that we were about to take off. I clung to the small comfort of just sitting where we were. I was safe here. It wasn’t scary here. Couldn’t we just stay here like this?
And then a powerful whining roar began, and the plane was moving forwards. I clutched the arms of my seat, trying to pray for the pilot, for the plane, for the passengers, but I couldn’t seem to get farther in my prayers than a terrified repetition of “Oh God, oh God, oh God!” I would later reassure myself that He knew what I meant and understood the sentiments I was too scared to organize into words.
It wasn’t the speed that alarmed me as we raced down the runway…it was the lack of it. Surely this was not enough speed to get this much metal off the ground!
And yet the ground began to drop away. I could see the terminal, the parking lot, the pastures dotted with cows and little ponds, patches of woods, farm houses, barns…
And then it all vanished into a perfectly even, unbroken gray-white as the plane climbed into the cloud layer. Rain began to streak my window. Rain! Rain that hadn’t even fallen from the sky yet! We were flying through its source, experiencing the place it came from!
We were fully enveloped in clouds when my momentarily-forgotten fear returned in the form of something I had read about plane crashes—that usually, if something is going to go wrong with the plane, it will happen within the first ninety seconds of the flight. I hadn’t been counting! Where were we by now? Thirty? Forty? I picked a random number and started counting from there…until the next thing happened, that would banish my fear of flying forever.

Author's age when written


This is great! The way you tell everything makes me laugh, while at the same time getting me to understand where you're coming from and helping me to sympathize with you.

I concur with my cousin Libby... this made me laugh! I'm so used to flying now, that it has long ago lost its magic for me. Reading what it was like from your perspective as someone who is already grown-up, but for whom it is nonetheless so new and exciting (and dreadful!)... it makes me want to fly again and pretend that it's my first time and that it's all new and exciting again. :)

I especially enjoyed this part:

Rain began to streak my window. Rain! Rain that hadn’t even fallen from the sky yet! We were flying through its source, experiencing the place it came from!

"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

As amusing and delightful as ever! And I absolutely love the take-off of any flight - and I love the way you capture it. It's like magic, for lack of a better word. :P :D