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Tuesday, May 12, 2015


by Stuart Mills
Getting through airport hassle may make flying a chore, but nothing can rob me of the slightly nerve-wracking thrill of speeding down the runway guessing when lift off will occur and when we will swiftly rise to places man has only been reaching for a bit more than a century.  The Wright brothers flew in 1903, and the first commercial flight was in 1914.  It's only 2015 now. That’s not a lot of time to accomplish so much.  I don’t want to miss that tremendous sense of history and wonder each time I board. 

In my favorite classic movies like the seasonal joy White Christmas, travel is by train.  So many of the 1940s and 1950s movie intrigues begin on trains or ocean liners—meeting strangers, witnessing murders, falling in love.  And then travel began to change.

My grandmother was an old lady wintering in Florida before she ever flew.  My mother didn’t leave the ground until she was middle-aged.  I boarded for the first time at 16, and as the plane made that tilted turn above La Guardia Airport in Queens, I saw the wing dip, dip, dip over the water, and my nails dug into my friend Edith’s hand leaving deep, red scratch marks.  My daughter, Allison, flew to at age 6 to Disneyworld, and my grand nephew, Theo, arrived in New York from Los Angeles when he was barely more than a month old.

What grand and wonderful changes these are.  We must remember to think of them.  We might complain of a bumpy ride, but just visit the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle, and you will learn that those in-pocket bags were not there for decoration.

photo attribution in corner

But back to my excitement.  Once airborne, I don’t ever want to get over my amazement of clouds.

As we leave Boston’s Logan Airport on this trip, we rise into high cloud cover.  Total white out.  Thick and blinding.  White—all the colors combined so that we see no color.  Nothing. 

Then suddenly without warning, we break through the blanket of cloud.  We are above it. The man in the seat in front of me quickly pulls down his shade because the sun is so bright it hurts his eyes, blinding him for the moment.  I squint a bit at the reflection of light off the brilliantly white clouds, but I don’t want to miss anything.  On the horizon, if there is such a thing in the sky, at what appears to be the end of the clouds’ flatness there is a brilliant cerulean blue area, straight across with a fairly even width, and above that oasis of blue, the whitest clouds surround.  It’s quite a fantasyland up here.

On this JetBlue flight to Cancun, a 4.5 hour flight from Boston, I have to marvel at our speed as we quickly cross thousands of miles.  I think of pioneers in Conestoga wagons or frontiersmen on foot.  How far we’ve come in our ability to wander the world.

I love the live map on my seatback screen tracing our plane’s progress.  Talk about a shrinking world right before my eyes.  We are at an altitude of 34,453 feet, flying at 423 miles per hour.  It feels as if we are barely moving.  Think of that and how 55 mph is the speed limit on many roads—70 mph if you’re lucky. 

Sometimes it might seem easier to gripe about a hassle in the airport, a late flight or a bumpy but safe descent and landing, but if you can use your imagination and think of how amazing the trip is and even how in a few years this might seem primitive, you might end up with a lighter heart and a smile.
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