If God had intended us to fly, He would've given us wings. I grow only more convinced of this the longer I live (and the more often I fly). The entire process is laced with absurdity.
I am greeted in the security line by a surly guard who takes my ID and reads it carefully. He looks suspiciously at my face, presumably to see if I'm a match. I am smiling politely and trying very hard not to look like a terrorist–I didn't realize it was a stretch–but it is evidently, because he examines the ID and me yet again. Just as am I about to speak up and assure him he will find no one more invested in this plane landing safely than I, he finally hands back the ID and waves me through.
At the gate, I find a seat near a woman who, it appears, is some sort of sales manager for a candy company. I know this because she is a Loud Talker. As I sit there, quietly, trying to read my book, she places call after call to the convenience stores who sell her candies, asking them how sales are and making suggestions on how to improve. "Tell the customers it's almost Valentine's Day!" she chirps, loudly. "They can buy a box and when their boyfriend gets home, they can leave a trail of candy from the front door all the way back to the…" I get up to move at this point, not especially interested in receiving romance counseling this way (though better here than at the convenience store check-out counter, I suppose).
Just before we board, the pilot comes out to chat with the gate attendants. He is wearing a tie that is, shall we say, questionable in its good taste. It is much too wide and it contains a cartoon emblem of a waving American flag, flanked by the snarliest- looking bald eagle you've ever seen.. I don't know whether to be comforted by this–maybe he's so patriotc he will go all Jack Bauer on any questionable passengers. Or maybe he's a goofball who likes taking commercial airplanes on loop-de-loops. I watch him closely.
We are instructed that boarding will begin, and we all stand, though we peasants must wait as the Priority Advantage Deluxe passengers board first. I suffer an uncomfortable flashback to the eighth grade.
When we peasants finally begin our march down the ramp, my anxiety level builds. I find myself scanning the plane for signs of trouble. Loose rivets? Signs of impact with killer geese? Unlucky numbers painted on the side? Though I am normally not at all superstitious, I always touch the side of the plane as I walk through the doors. I even give it a pat, the way one would a faithful horse, I imagine. Easy, boy, easy.
Take-offs are my most anxious part; the plane always feels, to me, as if it's groaning, pushing unnaturally against gravity. I suck in my stomach; I don't know why. It makes me look thinner, maybe it will make me feel lighter to a groaning airplane.
The flight is, mercifully, uneventful.
When we land Captain Questionable Tie comes out to greet us. "Welcome to Nashville," he said. "It's COLD here in the midwest." Everyone looks at him blankly. "Oh, that's right, Nashville is in the South, isn't it?"
And this is the man who just drove my airplane? Absurd, I tell you.
Next time, a train.