Flying AA1330 on A321S. Need Another Day.

First flight out of Dallas. 6:36 a.m. on-time departure.

Foot traffic unusually light at DFW, as are the lines at Security and at the Gate.

Ah yes, September 11. And, the morning of September 11th.

Pilot gets on the intercom, and announces that we’re flying on an Airbus A321S. 168,000 pounds, 450 mph at cruising altitude.

Plane unusually quiet. More seats empty than usual for this flight.

Pilot dims the lights in the cabin.

Cabin is silent as the plane taxis up to the runway.

It’s dark in the cabin, my seat mate snoozes. Me? Restless. Churning.

[Read more…]

Flying AA 1011. With Chop.

1 hour out from DFW (Dallas) on flight back to NY. 37,000 feet up.

Heavy chop. Heavy.

Seat belt alert pops up.

Cabin is quiet.

Pilot comes on the intercom: “Flight attendants, please take your seats.” Never a good sign.

I close the lid on my iPad. I note that others around me put down their gadgets.

Captain is back on the intercom: “Apologize folks. Bumpy ride here. I checked with air traffic control. Heavy turbulence in both directions, at all levels. We’re over Nashville. Expect this to clear in 8 minutes. Please take your seats.”

8 minutes. Not: We expect this to end soon. Or: We hope this ends soon. Or: We think it will end soon.

8 minutes. God, I Love technology.

I look up the aisle. Left wing drops and then right side counters to stabilize. Back, forth, up, down. Replay. Over and over. How does this Bird not blow apart in pieces? Why is your head going there? How is that line of thinking helpful at all?

Pilot takes the plane up. And accelerates. Plane groans as it grinds against the headwinds. Oh I agree Captain. Too rough here. Let’s get closer to God for help.

Gratitude surges, for living, and for life. Just get me home. I promise I’ll be better. At every thing. A bloody saint. I’ll be nice to Sawsan, and Dale and Kiki. Maybe even throw out a compliment or two and pretend like I mean it.

I grab the loose end of the seat belt and pull it snug around my belly. I’m short of breath. Could I be hyperventilating here? I need to lose 10 pounds. I clutch my iPad with both hands. Can’t possibly damage this device. Hitting another passenger does come to mind, secondary concern behind damage to the iPad.

We’re 10 minutes in. He said 8 minutes!

We’re 14 minutes in. Chop continues to be heavy. But he said 8 minutes! [Read more…]

Flying over I-40 N. With Roy Orbison.

I’m in the same seat, 24E Exit.
On the same plane, an Airbus A321.
On the same airline.
On the same flight.
Returning home from same city, AA1263 DFW to LGA.

To my left, across the aisle, and up one row, is same lavatory.

And here they come.

Wife, I’m guessing, is guiding him. They are 10 rows up, and shuffling down the aisle. He’s tall, 6’4″ est.  Middle aged, gray hair. Collared short sleeved shirt. Khaki pants.

Thick, black framed Roy Orbison glasses.

Blind.

The two of them make their way down the aisle. I set my iPad down to watch. She’s smiling. He’s grinning. Not a care in the world these two. And, You? A billion interconnected miracles happening every second for you to be you, and for you to see this moment. 

My index finger reaches for the volume button on my iPad to turn off the device. You can see the button. You can see the text on the screen. You can see your bag under the seat. You can see the zipper on the bag as you open your bag. You can see the compartment where you wish to set it in. You can see the two of them approaching. [Read more…]

Flying to Michigan. With best-laid plans.

You made a tough call. You considered the various alternatives and consequences, and it turned out badly. Accept it, and move on, right? No. You b*tch at your stupidity, you stew in it, you try to find others to blame, and then you grudgingly lurch into resignation, slide into acceptance, and then drop into peace. But not until you proceed through the steps, one by one by one.

It’s a White Plains, NY to Detroit to Northern Michigan flight plan.  A major storm sits on top of Detroit. Our pilot circles around the perimeter hoping it clears.  It doesn’t.  We divert to Cleveland to re-fuel.

We all sit on the plane as it re-fuels, the pilot looking to get back up and to Detroit.

The scheduled layover in Detroit was short. I fumble through my Delta app to learn that I will miss my connection.

I then proceed to make a critical (and flawed) decision. I ask to get off the plane to see if I can catch a Cleveland to Minneapolis to Northern Michigan flight and arrive late, but on the same day. (I learn that this is a major deal for security reasons as my luggage is in the cargo hold and cannot be retrieved – and, separating passenger from luggage is a no-no.)

They let me off. (After taking a photo of my ID, my boarding pass and my luggage receipt.)  They make the same offer to the rest of the passengers. Noted, no one else follows me. The attendant explains: “Sir, now you know that you will not have your luggage and it will be shipped on the original flight path arriving tomorrow.” I shrug, smile: “No problem.”

It’s 2:30 pm. The flight to Minneapolis is scheduled at 6pm, then connecting to Michigan at 8:30 pm.

The storm moves on from Detroit, and guess what? It slides on over and camps right on the top of Cleveland.  And it sits, and sits, and sits. Torrential downpours, lightening strikes, and rumors of funnel clouds.

It’s 8:00 pm. With delay after delay after delay.

It’s 9:00 pm and we take-off.

I find a Delta Service Center in Minneapolis to assist in re-booking my flight the next day.  The airport is emptying out. I find a McDonald’s (Open 24 Hours!) and wolf down three Cheeseburgers, the highlight of my day. Is there anything more satisfying than a McDonald’s cheeseburger on a empty stomach? My fingers tremble as I unwrap the yellow wax paper.

I find a cab. He’s annoyed. “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting in this cab line for a long ride?” [Read more…]

Flying over I-40 S. With Lav #2.

Who’s the guy in the photo? No idea. Loved the shot, it goes up.

Does he resemble him? No. Hair color? No. Glasses? Hmmm, black frames, but not the polaroids. Body frame? Close. So what’s the connection? For some inexplicable reason, Tattoo runs up shouting “Ze plane! Ze plane!” to announce the arrival of a new set of guests to Fantasy Island. Not “ze plane” – “ze cane Boss“, “ze cane.”

I’ve been in here, this same room, a hundred times, maybe more. Always early morning, and an hour before boarding. The first flight from LaGuardia to Dallas.

Yes, we’re back talking about Lavs, after Lav #1 earlier in the week, and Lav Doors a while back. It’s the Men’s restroom at the American Airlines Admirals Club. Here, there are three certainties when you enter: (1) the smell of clean, before hundreds soil the floor with urine and slop the countertops with water and soap suds, (2) Musak pumping Chill music through the ceiling speakers and (3) Chill, like Arctic air, that triggers goose bumps on your skin…get dancing!

It’s July, 82° F, and he’s wearing a blue windbreaker.  Navy blue slacks. A baseball cap. 5’4″ tops, if stretched out from his stoop. Glasses, black frames; lenses…coke bottles. Age? ~ mid 80’s.

He’s standing at the urinal to my left. His cane, hard wood, weathered, has a silver wrapper for a handle. It leans against the wall, waiting. [Read more…]

Flying over I-40 N. With Lav #1.

airplane-black-and-white

I just didn’t know. Or perhaps I didn’t care to know. Or maybe it’s just not possible to know. How could you possibly know?

And then there’s a moment or two, when you cross that line, from passively aware or passively engaged to actually feeling. And perhaps you only feel when the suffering is so high, yours or others, that only just then do you begin to give-a-sh*t.

I’m seated in an exit row on an Airbus A3215, 1 seat back and across from the airplane lavatory: ~40” long x 34” wide x 75″ inches tall. Inches.

A Mother walks down the aisle. She grabs the back of one seat, and then the next, and the next, to keep her balance. The plane tips left and right in soft turbulence. She makes her way down the aisle.

There are two hands gripping the tops of her shoulders. She’s slight, maybe 5’2”, and stooped under the weight of the hands. The hands are owned by a strapping 14-year old who towers over her. Mildly handicapped?

She enters the restroom first, her Son doesn’t let go. She lifts one hand off her shoulder and turns to him. She slides her arms under his arms and begins to tug him in. Won’t fit. Not possible. Two full size humans in 40 x 34 x 75.

There’s silence, five minutes or so, which is interrupted by a toilet flush. She exits, pulling him out with her arms under his. She strains to extract him from the box, her face red, filled with rage.

She extracts him and pauses to catch her breath. Her Son claws after her shoulders to grab on as the plane tips. They head back up the aisle. She settles him in.

She comes hurrying back down the aisle.  And into the Lav.

It’s quiet again, now for 5-7 minutes. Then a toilet flush.

She exits. Her right hand dries her eyes, now red and swollen. She catches my glance, offers a forced smile, turns, and heads back to her seat.

You just don’t know. No chance. Not close.


Notes:

Flying. Gate C-12. Nashville.

airplane-fly-light

2:15 pm flight.
Nashville, TN to LGA.

Gate C-12.  This would not be mistaken for Gate 4 in Albuquerque, a share with over 500,000 views.  No Sir. No such Magic.

Day 4 of a grueling road trip.
A thin cushioned seat at the Gate.
Followed by an announcement that the flight would be delayed 80 minutes.
It’s a wonderful life!

I walk.

Country girls with their long hair, tall boots, and skinny blue jeans.

A live performer strums his guitar, his love lost, his heart break. Patrons sit at the bar watching CNN and nurse their microbrews.

The intoxicating pull of a Quiznos Swiss Turkey Club, Hot fries from Burger King and Tall Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks – “Freshly steamed milk with vanilla-flavored syrup is marked with espresso and topped with caramel drizzle for an oh-so-sweet finish.”

But I resist. I walk away from all of this.

And I walk.
[Read more…]

Flying over I-95 S. With Germanwings Flight 9525.

plane-window-touch

Flight departure: 6:59am. From LGA to points South.
A restless night. I’m tossing. Turning. Weary.
Up before the alarm. I shower, shave, dress, zip up suitcase.
And, bolt out the door at 4:30 am.

Good Morning.
This is Captain Greg with First Officer John.
We’ve reached our cruising altitude at 38,000 feet

We’re expecting a smooth flight this morning.

The German newspaper Bild reports that 1.5 hours of audio was obtained from the black box and shows the plane reaching a cruising altitude of 38,000 at 10:27 am local time.

The morning sun beams through the window. The sky is marked with thin wispy clouds, but otherwise steely blue. Another spectacular day on Planet Earth.

The recordings picked up every detail of the co-pilot’s actions – suggesting that he was conscious and alert. “We could hear him breathing. He breathed normally.”¹

The stewardess doles out water and soft drinks. My noise canceling headphones are feeding in Jackson Browne. Sky Blue and Black. I’m in an aisle seat 14D. The aisle is clear. My line of sight to the cockpit door is clear. The door is reinforced with a four-inch steel plate. Gray, cool, steel.

The Germanwings Flight 9525 blackbox audio indicates the captain attempted to break down his flight’s cockpit door with an ax as the Airbus A320 accelerated into the French Alps.²

[Read more…]

Flying over I-95 N. Sometimes, you gotta go.

Airplane-Lavatory-Door

We are lifting off on flight #2395 heading back north.

I sneak a last peak at my smartphone, a text message from home:

It’s windy (very) here.  Expect a bumpy descent into NY. 

Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers comes to mind. Help! Thanks! Wow!  Thank YOU for the soothing send-off. My fingers are on the keys to fire back a rocket. I decide against it. What incredible restraint you have shown. And yet, so unlike you. I sit and ponder whether I’ve finally matured in Middle Age. Shake my head. An aberration from the mean. I’ll get the final word when I get home.

And, it’s choppy.

The beverage cart is rolled cautiously down the aisle. It is now a “beverage” cart. There are no longer any complimentary snacks on two and half hour flights. It is noted that the seats still recline, and they are complimentary as part of the ticket purchase.

I ask for a Diet Coke. It will dissolve a nail and here you are fueling your tank. She offers me the entire can. Just drink half.  Do it.  I slug it back, all of it, like a thirsty sailor. There are no napkins, those cost extra, so I wipe the spillage with my shirt sleeve. Class.

And, it’s choppy.

As the plane lurches up and down and left and right, the soda sloshes around. The Oxidation process is well under way, my intestines groan.  In my youth, my bowels could swell up like a dirigible and I would feel no discomfort – a light balloon drifting in a summer breeze. No longer. A whiff of dew and he’s a boogie-eyed meerkat on look out for the toilet.

And, it’s choppy.

Expect a bumpy descent into NY. We’re still one and half hours away.

There are core foundational principles with air travel. On the top of this list: “Avoid the Lavatory.” Unless you are ready to explode, don’t do it. Why do they call it a lavatory? Lavatory. It sounds like Def: A location where medical research is being conducted. But it is def: A room with a toilet and sink. AND LAYERS OF JUMPIN’ BACTERIA. The best outcome here is avoidance. Period. There is no close second.

And, it’s choppy. [Read more…]

5:00 PM Bell: Clear for take-off

aerial-jet-airline-black-and-white


Source: k-omakino

 

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