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Rated: · Column · Experience · #1485147
A short piece on the unexpected tranquility of flying in an airplane.

I’m not sure where I was when I learned how to stop time. Probably somewhere between twenty-five and thirty thousand feet. I wasn’t perched on some mountain cliff, meditating to the wash of a wise creek. No, instead I sat, legs crossed over my carry-on bag, trying to drown out the captain’s drone – safety information in the event I find myself trying to survive a crash landing.
I scanned the faces of the Coach Crew. There were anxious moms fumbling with packs of Starbursts, businessmen in un-ironed suits. The business class’s red carpet was replaced by the excess yardage of ugly tie factories. Nervous hands clutched arm-rests, and faces turned to the windows, bidding the security of the ground farewell. Sitting in my luggage-lotus, I closed my eyes and pressed my head back against the seat.
Ears popped. Mouths chewed. My eyes remained closed.
There was a kind, quiet ding. Little orange seatbelts disappeared from the overhead console. The once deafening rush of flight had become a silence in its own right. The cabin was dim; the reading spotlights, like little streetlamps, struggled to break the shadows.
Time didn’t exist.
There’s a sense of the surreal when flying at night. Maybe it’s the inherent danger and knowledge that people don’t belong at those altitudes. The fact that, if not for the design that made the Wright Brothers the Wright Brothers, you’d be, for example, heading to a graveyard instead of grandma’s. Maybe it’s the minimalism – the unlikely comfort of two small, too-small pillows that feel like napkins bundled in doctor’s office robes. Regardless of where it comes from, much like any flight, it’s the same feeling when you get there. That place between the growing and shrinking sea of orange city lights. That’s my destination. I don’t find peace in a church, in a garden, or in a library. My Sistine Ceiling is a gray-blue checker pattern specked with fold-down TVs (the flimsy ones that shake and wiggle like the dancers on the cultural programming they show). My mind feels clear and uninhibited, as if my boarding of the plane was a wave goodbye to all my daily worries. There is an ultimate tranquility.
Landborne, I’ve found myself subject to a type of airplane post-traumatic stress disorder; the feeling of a late night flight is triggered by the ding of a small bell. Though it is far less tragic than the affliction soldiers suffer, it only takes the purchase of a vowel on Wheel of Fortune to send me spinning to that place of mental immersion, that isolated world not bound by the Father Time’s values. Whether grounded in sentiment or spoil, I always find coming home the best part of a trip. That taste of timelessness has inspired a personal search for that feeling in my normal life. Sneaking downstairs when I’m supposed to be sleeping is a temporary remedy. A walk in the twilight, a higher dose. Because of this, it is no surprise to me that the French word “voler” means both to steal and to fly.
The clocks woke up with a cruel, quiet ding. Seatbelt fasteners clicked closed, and the air rushing by resumed its typical roar. The captain monotoned the news of our descent over the crackling speakers. The apparently awkward, sweater-clad passenger to my right made his first and last comment of the night. “It’s about time.”
© Copyright 2008 Chris Kenyon (ckenyon at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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