The flight from
Birmingham to ? Seems simple. Easy. A softball on the Final Exam of How to be a Pilot. Ah, but add an outlying element. Say, a thunderstorm. Make that a Capital-T Thunderstorm. Now the scenario changes. Evolves. Becomes something entirely different. What was once elementary is now String Theory Physics. Atlanta
The thing about this short, pit-stop of a flight is that it is too short. Not even worthy of offering a bag of peanuts. Apparently, and I’m not a pilot so I make no warranty to the accuracy of this, but apparently BHM to ATL is not enough of a distance to gather altitude and fly around, or over, anything. By the time the plane has a chance to reach cruising altitude, it’s already making preparations for decent and landing.
I’ll say this – it’s difficult to keep perspective on the hopeful things to come – things like moving to England for a semester and girls with sexy accents, when things are, if you’ll pardon the expression, going south on a plane. My seat smells like B.O., which I’m pretty sure isn’t mine, and the constant flash of lightning outside leaves me less than confident about my future. Images of John Lithgow’s scene in The Twilight Zone Movie come to mind. Again, I check the wing for homicidal gremlins.
The plane seems like overkill for a thirty minute flight. It’s one of the bigger ones. Don’t know the make or model, if that's even the right way to refer to a plane, though I’m sure this is some sort of D-C3PO something or other. The aisles are mostly empty, which is fortunate. No babies, either, thank god. Just business types, doing their best to keep their dignity as the plane shakes us all like James Bond's favorite martini.
We hit an air pocket and the plane drops what feels like a mile. The whole fuselage shakes like hell. An overhead compartment bursts open and a blue blanket falls on my head.
My death shroud, no doubt.
Someone groans behind me. It’s a horrible sound to hear on a plane, much crueler than a scream. A scream can mean many things and we’re accustomed to hearing them made in surprise, fright, or when seeing Justin Timberlake. With so many meanings, we’ve become sort of numb to their sound. Basically, they’re the human equivalent to car alarms. But a groan – that guttural, almost involuntary sound made in futility, when the inevitable is upon someone. A lovely soundtrack to the situation, to be sure.
The plane steadies and a short while later we’re in
, no worse for wear. Ever seen a grandparent after they've been talked into riding a roller coster by their grandchild? That's the look on everyone's face as they deboard. I run through the airport, ride the airport subway, and eventually arrive at my gate to descover that the plane is late. Wonderful. In Atlanta New York, there is a plane waiting to take me to . I have a layover there built into my itenerary to ensure I make the flight, but if this delay in Atlanta lasts too long, my careful plans will fall apart. So I sit and wait. Time ticks away on my wrist watch. London
“Whatever you do,” my dad had said at the airport just before I left, “make sure you never miss your flight.”