Whoever decided it was a good idea to take a several ton chunk of metal and send it hurtling through the sky, going hundreds of miles an hour and hovering miles above the earth, was probably on hallucinogenics.
I’m all for exercising your imagination, creating new things, pioneering in our culture, etc.... but I don’t like flying. I HATE flying. I have a just this side of sanity fear of flying.
And the people who DO love flying? I don’t understand those people. And I’m good at understanding people, as a rule. I don’t understand air travel lovers. What’s there to love??
So here I am, sitting on a gray vinyl end seat attached to a row of identical gray vinyl seats, outside my gate at the airport, surrounded by strangers in various states of inertia and alertness. My legs are crossed and my dingy white Chuck Taylors are rocking restlessly back and forth, the only outward sign of my inward panic, and the only thing keeping me from getting up and running in a tight circle, screaming and flailing and getting tackled by security.
This is my first time flying all by myself. I know, at the age of almost 35, this probably seems pathetic. But sister prefers road trips, and the east coast, and places moderately accessible by road trips. This is also the longest flight I’ve ever taken, aside from a trip to Newfoundland, Canada, a whole EIGHTEEN years ago. And at 16 you’re not afraid of your own mortality, especially if you have your older brother with you, and your Discman playing Starflyer 59’s latest release.
I’m trying to chill. Really I am. I’m trying to keep my stomach from churning and keep those panicked tears that keep pricking at the back of my nose and eyes and trying to close my throat at bay. Because I’m a grownup, dammit! My dad tried to make my feel better telling me that I’ll get to fly over the Rockies, and all I thought was, “Flotation devices won’t work in the Rockies!!!!”
My suitcase was five pounds over the check limit, meaning my check fee would jump from $25 to $100. They can’t even gradually increase the weight to cost ratio. 50lbs, $25! 51lbs, $100 and also we’re gonna require one of your kidneys, if you please. The exceptionally kind American Airlines clerk saw my panic, undoubtably thought I was at least 10 years younger than I am, and told me he could sneak about an extra two pounds in if I could weed out three pounds. So there I was, holding up the check in line, trying to figure out what I could take out— and hang on a second. Yes, I’m a clotheshorse, but I’m not THAT big of one. I only packed TWO pairs of shoes, and TWO pairs of pants, I’ll have you know. There are several sweaters and layers, because while my beloved Virginia will be enjoying 60-70° weather the next week, I’ll be in Idaho, where it’s a WHOLE lot colder than my best friend assured me it would be. And the rest of the weight is gifts for her kids, which mainly take the form of books, so. Now you’re informed— I ended up grabbing the first few items I saw: my jean jacket, a pair of gray velour sweatpants, and my stuffed puppy (everyone who’s seen my on trips knows about Lumbar, my floppy and well loved stuffed dog that Jeremy got me for our first Christmas 16 years ago). Then I had to carry all of that in addition to my carry on backpack, my jacket, and my scarf (because it’s COLD where I’m going, remember?), and try to figure out how I’m going to squeeze it all into my only allowable carry on, which is also packed full. There was a kind TSA agent who watched me struggling to wriggle my ID out of my wallet, one handed, sweat beading my brow and breath coming fast, and graciously, without comment or censure, placed his rubber blue gloved finger on my wallet to hold it in place while I worked my ID out of the sleeve.
Several times I dropped several items, and had to scramble to gather everything back up, while onlookers no doubt watched me and figured I was drunk at 5:30 in the morning.
Currently, I have a chambray shirt on over a t-shirt, with my scarf and my denim jacket tied around my waist. My other jacket will have to go on OVER my over-shirt AND denim jacket, and essentially I’m going to burn alive. The velour sweatpants are rolled tight and shoved into the side pocket of my backpack, but if I have to, I’ll put those on over my current pants, too (Maybe I AM drunk?).
I just spoke to the clerk for my flight and he told me the puppy is allowed to be carried on with me, which nearly made me weep with relief. There was no way I was going to manage to squeeze it into my backpack, and if it came down to the puppy and several other items in the carry on, almost all items in the “other” category are only so much ballast. The velour sweatpants and the small lap blanket my sister insisted I bring since I’m in the cheap seats and will get cold, and yes, possibly even my makeup bag would have ended up in a trash can in the middle of Norfolk International Airport.
In 20 minutes we’ll begin boarding, although I’ll be boarding last so I still have time to sit and stew and maybe put my head between my knees for a bit. And— assuming I’m alive to see them— I’m sure the Rockies will be beautiful from above.