Friday, December 24, 2004

Fear of flying

I've come to NYC for Christmas. On the plus side, chestnuts-- which were impossible to find in Maine-- are in plentiful supply here. On the minus side, there are several million other people here for Christmas, too. Luckily, not many are after chestnuts. Otherwise there could have been a scuffle.

The flight down began inauspiciously-- I received the full-suspicion go-through-all-your-stuff and pat-you-down-real-good search at the Portland International Jetport. As it turns out, they had good cause to be suspicious: I'd forgotten about a swiss army knife still packed in my bag from recent (terrestrial) travel. So, the TSA crew found that. Good TSA crew. They were nice about it; didn't get accusatory or preachy. They even told me how I could take it out to the newstand and have it mailed home for $5. But that would mean another trip through security, possibly missing my flight. So I had to part with the knife, which saddened me because it was a gift from at least 20 years back. So rare to hold on to something so small, and so much used, for so long. I wish I could remember every bottle of wine its corkscrew had openned.

The first half of the flight was spectacular. Mount Washington, which is barely visible from ground-level Portland on a crystaline day, leapt into glorious view seconds after take-off. All of New England appeared shades of dullness except that one mountain, glowing alabaster white like Moby Dick in his dark grey sea. And so close-- almost in Portland's back yard! Why don't I go there more often? For the moment, however, I was donning silly city clothes and flying to megalopolis instead of cavorting in snow and ice.

I'm a calm flier, but this journey ended with anxiety and fear. Part way through, the pilot began making strange turns-- west to Springfield, MA, then south to New Haven, CT (you can read N E W H A V E N spelled on the local aiport grounds), then west again along the CT coast. Just as we neared Laguardia, suddenly another turn west, with several disconcerting dips and climbs. Vague curiosity about this unusual flying progressed to mild concern as we cruised fast and low down the length of Manhattan. Roaring past the southern edge of Central Park, seemingly just about the rooftops, it was impossible not to think "Wy are we doing this? Are we aiming at the Empire State Building? Why can't I see the flight attendant? Is this where we should be getting the beverage cart and bashing in the cockpit door?" Several heartbeats skipped as the pilot made more maneuvers with an amateurish feel. I gripped the seat in front of me. Just then we cleared past Battery Park, banked hard left, and dropped over Brooklyn to the airport. I wonder if this is how it's always going to feel, now, flying into New York.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the arrival lines in these pics...

1/4/05, 5:45 PM  
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10/9/05, 2:43 AM  

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