Monday, August 07, 2006

Shakes on a Plane

Here I am, on the road to the half-century mark. It’s funny, but everyone around me seems to age, yet I don’t. It really caught me off guard when I took a moment out to contemplate what my next birthday actually means. Maybe nothing. After all, it’s just a collection of years. Maybe, when taken in context, a decade might mean something, in and of itself, as a whole. But the jump from 49 to 50 only has serious significance if I actually place an undue importance on that one event. Sort of like when I turned 40. I was in Japan, at the time, and as I started up my Toyota Carina (they don’t sell those in the States), the radio came on with that Pink Floyd tune with the line “…but you’re older. Shorter of breath and one day closer to death…” How nice, I thought. Anyway.

The trip to Albuquerque was, as I had described earlier, absolutely perfect. Once I got there. The type of vacation that I really needed. Speaking of death, though, allow me to relate the flight over there.

Leaving Memphis International was rather uneventful. We were a few minutes late, but that was offset by my interest in flying in one of the newer American Airlines smaller aircraft. They’re called “Regional Jets” and they resemble large corporate aircraft with 2 seats on one side of the aircraft and one seat on the other. No problems landing in Dallas and finding my way to the connecting flight to Albuquerque. But that’s where the fun started. First of all, we managed to make it as far as the runway when the pilot informed us that we had to turn back, due to a failure in the auxiliary power supply. Back we go. The engineers had it “fixed” and certified in about an hour. Off we go again. Now, you have to understand, the connecting flight wasn’t one of those new Regional Jets. It was more in line with the aircraft William Shatner was flying on in that episode of the Twilight Zone. Except that the bolts on the wing (over which I happened to be sitting) were quite rusty. We take off. And we arrive in Albuquerque just in time for a major thunderstorm. This, in a city that had been experiencing a recent draught. Timing is everything. We can’t land. Then the pilot informs us that we are running out of fuel and will have to divert to Lubbock, Texas (!) for some more gas. Lovely. We land at the nearly deserted Lubbock airport and they begin fueling (right at the wing that I was sitting over) when I noticed something strange. They were fueling the plane with the engines still on (!!). The captain came on the PA system and helpfully announced that they were leaving the engines on to keep the air conditioning running since the auxiliary power supple still wasn’t working! How does that work? Did they lie about fixing it the first time? I kept thinking about the warnings you see on gasoline pumps at your local gas station and somehow I did not find it comforting when the flight captain assured us that this was “perfectly safe”. It was around this time that I called up my wife and reminded her, that in case anything happened to me, she should make sure to collect on my 401K plan as well as the insurance and whatever she gets from suing the airline. I don’t think my conversation went over well with the person in the seat next to me. Or the people behind me, for that matter. Anyway, we finally took off, landed in Albuquerque and discovered that there was only one crew to unload luggage for the three flights that had just arrived. That took another hour. All in all, my flight to Albuquerque took six hours longer than scheduled. But at least I made it and the wife will have to wait a bit longer for that trip to Disney World.

3 Comments:

At 3:19 AM, Blogger Cullen M. M. Waters said...

Oh, the joys of flying.

My father worked for TWA back in the day, so we did a lot of flying stand-by. The oh so fun stories I could tell about that.

 
At 11:53 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

Flying is like being on a really dangerous bus; you really don't have any control over it.

I do like flying when I get a window seat, though, and have my camera. Flying over some of the landscapes is a pretty awesome experience.

(I try not to think about how far it is to the ground.)

 
At 1:43 PM, Blogger Henry Brennan said...

I love flying, as well. However, I find that as time goes on, I seem to run into situations that the airlines don't seem prepared for. Also, when I was a kid, flying used to be more of an elegant affair. Now, it's more of a cattle car mentality.

 

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