I wonder

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 18, 2017 7:35 PM

[Written late last night and posted today]

I am 37,000 feet above the earth. It seems an impossible number. I try to imagine 37,000 wooden rulers like the ones I had in grade school, stacked one on top of the other, end to end, an endless stick that points from the desert up into a night sky where only the pale flash of red lights gives away where we are. I wonder how 37,000 feet became the accepted height for flight. I realize I don’t care enough to find out.

I am on my way home, finally. I say finally as if it’s been weeks since I was there when it was only yesterday that I left. It just seems like weeks. I wonder if others feel this way when they leave home or if others think about it.

I wonder when Southwest Airlines started having such on-time awfulness. I wonder when flying became more awful, nothing more than a means to an endpoint. I used to like flying when I would board big planes in Los Angeles and fly all the way across the country without stopping until we landed in Boston. I suppose I liked it because my dad often gave me his first class upgrades and first class is always better than steerage. Southwest only does the latter. When I liked flying it was before 9/11, before the rest of us were made to suffer because of the government’s mistakes. The government started making flying less fun; the airlines just perpetuate it.

I wonder why it’s always nearly impossible to hear the pilot when he addresses the cabin. That’s probably not safe. I also wonder why there is always someone who farts at least once while the plane is in the air and why that person is always sitting just in front of me. 

Or maybe airplanes just stink.

I am on my way home from San Francisco.

I had forgotten how much I love it there. It’s an incredible city, sprawling and tall, dirty and glorious, filled with different types of people all melding into one. I watched people walking their little dogs last night in Union Square as I sat in a Thai restaurant eating curries and pad Thai and sipping a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. I miss the sophistication of a city like San Francisco. I had forgotten. I wonder why.

It rained on my walk back to the hotel, the kind of soft rain that you almost can’t feel and so you’re surprised to find out how wet you are when you step inside. Water dripped from the fire escapes above. People strolled, dogs pooped and owners cleaned it up.

Today I sat in a board room with walls of glass overlooking AT & T Park, where the Giants play, and the glass-like bay. The sun was shining, there was only the slightest breeze. People walked and jogged, dogs ambled. Tugboats chugged toward buoys. I wondered when I would have the opportunity to visit the City by the Bay again and have more time to breathe in its scent of ocean and bread and diesel and Thai food.

The plane has started its descent. The city lights are growing closer. Soon I will be able to see the cars on the road, the still and always illuminated flags waving in the desert night.

I love how the sound of the plane changes just before you touch down. The engines have slowed to landing speed; the gear is down, the flaps up. There is a hovering sound, a closeness, a tease of a kiss.


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live out loud

Comments (2) -

11/19/2017 8:24:04 AM #

While I understand you don't care to find out, I'll share anyway:

I love flying. I'm an aviation geek. Also an Apollo spaceflight kid. I always loved flying and even still like it despite your legitimate post-911 complaints. Steerage doesn't matter to me. If I have a window seat, I'm content.

About that 37,000 foot altitude? It turns out that we have planned highway lanes in the sky. By that odd number, 37,000, I immediately knew you were either flying in a westerly direction or an easterly one; even numbered altitudes have us flying north or south. And the heights way up there has the airplane taking advantage of the of the jet streams and the smooth air; it's a fuel savings thing.

One last thing for you not to care about, too. Smile If you've had the pleasure of watching a bird billowing out it's wings in semi-parachute fashion as it prepares to land on the water, you'll be observing Nature's air brakes in action. That's precisely what an airplane's wing flaps are designed for. Only during landing, they're not up as you say. They're down in 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 degree increments depending at what stage of descent you're at.

Imagine this! Not a single word about San Francisco.

Fred Marcin United States

11/19/2017 8:49:12 AM #

An important clarification I missed:

37,000 is actually an even number! The odd/even designations are decided upon in thousand foot blocks. "37", hence odd. Smile

Fred Marcin United States

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