The first time I ever flew was when my mother decided that our yearly trek to Hartford, Conn., from Northeast Vermont would be less of an ordeal if it took less time. By car, the journey with six car-sick children fighting and throwing up, took around 10 nightmarish hours. By plane, although the throwing up was more intense, the journey was cut to a mere three hours. My second trip by air was to Germany and lasted 16 hours. Luckily, in the interim, Dramamine had been invented and I was able to drug myself into a near coma.
These days I fly several times each year in order to see my children and my children’s children who have settled in such far-off lands as Charlottesville, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Jersey City. We’ve done the drive a couple of times: Charlottesville is 10 hours and Cincinnati is 14. We also try to squeeze in a spring break with my brother in Florida; we drove it once (22 hours) and won’t do that again.
In recent years the most annoying thing about air travel is having to change flights several times for each trip. On the map the route shows that you have to go everywhere but in a straight line to your destination. We start in Hartford, then go to Detroit, then to Newark, and finally Kansas City. Between flights you get to sprint around looking for your new gate, which may have been changed while you took advantage of the restrooms. Of course, the more stopovers you are scheduled for, the more take-offs and landings, my most unfavorite parts of any flight. When the plane gets ready to leave the ground I feel a personal responsibility for getting it into the air. As we hurtle down the runway, I hold my breath and silently urge the aircraft aloft. As we travel faster and faster I lift my body skyward at the same time clenching my husband’s hand to a point that cuts off blood flow. I’m always amazed, yet heartened, by the nonchalance of my fellow passengers. They start reading their books, fiddle with their lap tops, introduce themselves to fellow passengers. They snooze before we even reach altitude. I want to grab a few of them by the throat and scream at the top of my lungs, “Don’t you realize we’re all going to die!” Some of them actually start to doze.
The next thing I know we slice through the clouds into beautiful blue skies and I hear the engines level off and start to purr. Then the flight attendants spring into distraction action and roll out the food, such as it is these days. I eventually relax a bit and concentrate on praying to Captain Sully Sulenberger for a safe journey.
I listen for that change in engine sounds that means we’re going to land pretty soon. It’s my responsibility to bring that plane down to a smooth landing and this I accomplish with a minimum of hard bumps and gritted teeth.
We made it!