The Mile Too High Club


A Wing and a Prayer

This photo of an airplane wing and a bunch of clouds topped by a blue sky at roughly 15 thousand feet above normal civilization may not seem like much to the average person.  Girl in plane, has camera, takes shot.  Actually what you are looking at is historical and noteworthy enough to add to my blog so you can bet it was a big deal.

Like so  many people, I have a fear of flying, which is weird because I’m don’t fear death, but I think the problem is heights and maybe a dash of giving up control of my life.  If you ever see me at a carnival or fair where there are rides that spin and climb and plummet and spin again, it’s most likely – no, it’s for certain – that you’ll see me standing at the bottom of the ride, holding everyone’s pocketbooks and cotton candy.  I may have gotten one or two small tattoos in my crazy young life (and then there was lazer), but I’ve never been much for messing with my physiology.  I’ll leave that to Dr. Frankenstein.  No one’s stomach should be lodged in the back of their throat, it’s just not right.  And I don’t want to blow out my vocal chords because I’ve been scared so badly that my screams are something only dogs can hear.  It’s just not my cup of tea.

Well, back to the trip.  Any time and every time I fly on a plane, it’s a relatively short flight, but it’s always a harrowing experience.  I’m fine with getting packed the night before and getting up at 4 a.m. after only an hour’s sleep.  I don’t even mind the looks I get as I swallow a Bloody Mary on the plane at 7 or 8 a.m.  I’m not driving the plane, and you should all be thankful for that.  What I do mind is turbulence and thinking that I’m so high up that I can’t even make out a skyscraper.  I try desperately to fall asleep, but I’m also sometimes afraid I’ll miss something very important.  Like, perhaps I’ll wake up and the plane will be empty and my under-the-seat water flotation device light is blinking like a 60s strobe light.  That, and I usually always sit next to the craziest traveler on the plane.  You may be thinking by now that I must look crazy to other passengers, but no.  When I say crazy, I mean crazy.

Once on a flight from Tampa to Newark, I sat on an aisle seat, the seat next to me was empty and the window seat was occupied by a crazy person.  He was bald (which is not a dig, I like bald), about 45 and I believe he told me his name was Don Juan, at least that’s what I called him.  I begged him to go back to his seat.  He wouldn’t.  He started telling me about his trip to Florida to see family and how he was the black sheep in his family and that he’s wasted his life and I just kept looking for a stewardess and the marquee that said “Psychiatrist 5 cents” over my head.  He was a blockhead.  He touched my arm several times and as I was about to get my New York up and curse him back to hell, I looked around and noticed several young people – kids – in the area.  (“Shit.”)  So I put on my best-behaved, meet-the-parents voice and said, “If you don’t stop touching me, you’re going to pull back a bloody stump,” and I smiled.  I think it was when my eyes went totally black that really scared him.  He retreated.  Still, when the steward (and he was hot) came by, I begged him to let me change seats.  He took one look at the guy and then back at me and told me that I was sitting next to the only empty seat on the plane.  No, I’m not, that’s why I want to move. The creep tried a few more times until I started getting loud saying, “Leave me alone.”  But a plane is like a little New York City, no one wants to get involved; I was on my own and I knew it.  For approximately two and one-half hours, I had to endure this guy ordering drinks (he didn’t pay for), getting more obnoxious and climbing over me twice (so that’s four times) to go to the bathroom.  I kept hoping he’d hit a wrong flush button and eject himself out over a gator swamp.  It gets worse before the end of the flight, but you get the idea.

On another flight to LaGuardia from Florida, I sat in almost the same situation, but this time I had the window seat.  I closed the shade and buried my head in a book, trying to ignore the impending sickness from takeoff.  I believe I had a little 5 mg blue friend for that flight.  The guy two seats away, an older gentlemen, starts chatting me up.   I wasn’t really into the book anyway.  His conversation got very personal after a bit, and I was just starting to feel uncomfortable enough to say “enough” as he introduced me to his wife sitting across the way.  “Hi,” I smiled.  (“Holy crap, this couple is trying to pick me up.”)  The only saving grace was I totally got through takeoff much better than usual since I was already in shock.  Why, Lord, do these people gravitate to me like a magnet on steroids?  Why?!

Anyway … oh yeah – so this year I went to Sarasota.  A quick 3-hour trip from New Jersey – if you get a non-stop flight that is.  Yes, I had to change planes in Charlotte, NC.  Are you kidding?  No direct flights from New Jersey to Sarasota.  What could have been a simple 3-hour flight was more like 5 or 6 hours with an hour layover.  Is this the 21st Century?  Fine.  But you know what?  Something happened to me on that trip – there and back.  I flew four times in a five-day span, and suddenly I was bored.  I felt like I had been there, done that.  That and I had an excellent time in Florida.  The weather was great the friends and family were all good and I didn’t write a thing.  Well, one day I posted, but that was it.  Also, being unemployed, besides my freelance stuff, totally changed my psyche.  I wasn’t thinking about the dreaded return to my 9-5 with mounds of paperwork left on my desk either undone or done wrong.  I didn’t have 27 voice mails and a week’s worth of emails to think about or deal with when I got back.  I also didn’t have to think that when I got back, I’d only have X amount of days left for the year to relax and/or get stuff done.  I was free.  Well, I did study a bit – another course online I’m taking.  And I did write, but it was on paper, with a pen, the old-fashioned way, which I found very pleasing.  In between I swam and took photos and walked the beach and watched the Olympics on television with my father and his wife and had some real quality time I hadn’t enjoyed with them in a long time.

When I got to Charlotte, I walked through airport like a pro, stopped in the ladies room like I worked there, and despite a very bumpy ride that pushed us into North Carolina 20 minutes early, I was almost liking flying, and thinking about maybe becoming a travel writer.  My cabin-mates were all normal and well-behaved and when asked if I’d like a drink by the stewardess, I replied, “Water, please.”  I asked my window buddy if he would mind if I took a picture through the window and he said, “Not at all.”  Ah, normal.  I knew I had to document the moment – the first moment that I was on a plane without a book, a drink, a pill or a crazy person, and I was actually liking it.  How long is the flight to Aruba, I wondered.

Don’t they look like they’re waving?

The Beginning

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