Air travel is pretty routine these days, despite the best efforts of the security folks to make us feel safer by inconveniencing us more and more. (It was Buggy who pointed out to me that if a terrorist wanted to end all air traffic and cripple the economy of the developed nations, all he would need to do is smuggle a bomb up his butt and get caught. The resulting security checks would end all passenger traffic.) So, while standing in line to get patted down and have a metal detector run over my body in the Frankfurt airport I thought of ways to get dangerous substances past. It still strikes me as frightfully easy.
But other than that air travel is an easy process — you wait around in large building, when instructed you join a few hundred of your (now) closest friends in an aluminum cylinder,
*** We interrupt this blog entry to stand in a new line for a while, to be allowed to come back and sit where I was before, with an extra form to fill out. The United States government promises that the form will be destroyed upon the arrival of my flight in the US. ***
… aluminum cylinder, where we sit for a period of time. There is some noise and some motion; those with windows can see things change outside, and then the noise goes away and we all file out of the cylinder (“deplane” — when we got on, were we “planing?”) and we discover that we are in a building much like the first, but the advertising is in a different language. That, in a nutshell, is modern air travel.
The waiting area I’m in right now is more comfortable than most, and the TV appears to be showing the news right now. There are pictures of a passenger airliner in flames; the tail sticking up from the surrounding burning foliage is the only indication of what it used to be. No one around me seems to connect that flaming aluminum cylinder with the one we will be packing into soon. Then again, I don’t appear to, either.
This is the time of hope and fear, as we all size each other up, and wonder who’s going to get stuck next to the crazy lady whose eyes point different directions and who wants to talk to everyone (about what is not entirely clear), or who’s going to have the seat in front of the hyperactive five-year-old and feel the thump-thum-thump of his little sneakers for ten hours, even while trying to tune out his over-loud complaining. Then there is the pretty girl in the purple sweater. Will she be seated in 20B? The vast majority of passengers, however, are like me, just interchangeable faces, people who are in Frankfurt and would rather be in Dallas. At least, I hope I’m in that group.
What does any of this have to do with the title for this episode? Well, not much. But I am tired. It’s my defining characteristic right now. The leg of my trip from Prague to Frankfurt was typical in every way, but there was a point where I rose out of deep snooze to some bouncing and jouncing. “Sweet,” I thought. “Already landing.” No such luck; we were taking off.