Monday, June 28, 2010

Staying Aloft

I've never stepped on the Priority Sky Miles mat. If you have, you've paid too much by credit card. Sure you get on the plane quicker, but you're on with the screaming kids. They rolled all over the mat first with their strollers and Graco trappings.

Whether you walk down that flap of mat or wait until "Zone 4" is called and are herded through the gate, you likely have some special way of handling flight. (Or maybe not. This could be one of those places where I once again find myself alone on the playground.) Maybe you say a Hail Mary, or a few Please Gods, or you have another special mantra. Maybe you always say thank you to the person who scans the bar code on your boarding pass. Whatever it is, you're sure it works.

I keep a pinecone in my pocketbook. No one has frisked me for keeping a bit of the ground in my purse yet. It's a non-aerosol pinecone and is less than three fluid ounces.

The sudden camaraderie I feel toward my fellow passengers is always surprising to me. These are people I don't know, and will likely never get to know, but I start to think about what we might say to each other if the plane were to spiral toward the earth from 30,000 feet. The woman in the striped shirt looks like a soft grandmotherly sort. The tan guy is returning home from a vacation and seems happy. That crying baby is a good luck charm. The likelihood of a crash with a baby is small, I trick myself. Good.

A friend of mine told me once how she enjoys being in airports because "you can be anyone there." I think you can be anyone anywhere, and would rather be anyone anywhere other than in an airport. I enjoy watching people's reunions, but the frantic chirping of trapped birds in the Detroit airport makes me uneasy.

On the plane, I have my rituals. I figure if I am just good, if I pay attention, if I obey, the plane won't nosedive into the ocean. I always look at the safety card. I buckle my seatbelt when asked. When I exit the plane, I thank the pilot. I never complain about anything until I have gotten back on the ground.

If I am good, if I obey, if I don't complain, we stay aloft. If I bitch, it's a sudden plummet for all.

So I feel love for the trapped humanity on the plane until we land when I start to wonder why that woman is wearing a striped seersucker shirt. What a horrible word -- seersucker. I wouldn't want it wrapped around me. I wouldn't want to die in it.

The salt from my mini pretzels has confettied the insides of my pocketbook. My ears feel like they have blades in them. The view from 30,000 feet was a miniature wonderland. Thank God we're landed. Hail Mary. Hail Pinecone.