Forgive me for writing on such a hack subject, but I’m visiting my folks in Las Vegas and I’m having trouble concentrating in order to write the blog post I really want to write. And honestly, that’s just a convenient excuse. The subject is difficult, so it may take me awhile for me to say what I want to say exactly as I want to so say it. So, instead, I’m writing about air travel.
I’ve been a solo passenger in airplanes since I was eight. At that time, it was an adventure. Now, as an adult, I experience commercial air travel as an artificial, barely human experience. As soon as I step into the terminal, I feel I might as well be taking a trip into space, with all the wonder and struggle that’s involved. We are essentially launched through the sky in a pressurized tube, which is both miraculous and intensely unnatural. But while I was listing all the various things that bother me about plane travel, I have finally come to see why my disdain of air travel has grown over the years. Air travel produces an odd combination of discomforts that add up to a two-or-so-hour artificially induced flu.
Hear me out. After standing in check-in and security lines for 30 minutes to an hour, I get to sit in hard plastic chairs at the gate, which is not much of a relief. Follow this with the cramped leg-space on the airplane and I begin to experience a dull muscle ache.
In flight, while the cabin is pressurized for my comfort, it feels, much to my discomfort, that the air pressure is denser just around my forehead. My ears begin to feel clogged. And the air I’m breathing feels like it was manufactured from the air of dryer exhaust.
And I’ve become much less comfortable with turbulence. When the plane plummets 20 feet, so does my stomach. I know we are significantly less likely to crash into something up in the sky than when we are driving on land, but knowing this doesn’t make the constant lurching around, of the plane or my insides, any more pleasant.
Oddly, the whole experience induces drowsiness, especially with the ocean-like roar of the jet engines and rush of wind resistance cradling my senses in an envelope of white noise as we sail through the downy lusciousness of white clouds. But it’s so uncomfortable that I can’t sleep. On the rare occasions that I have slept, it has been like an ill person, drooling on myself, a rope of saliva hanging from my lip, swinging pendulously as my head rolls back and forth in rhythm with the turbulent plane. When we hit an air pocket my head snaps back as if the pilot had slammed on the breaks and I am jolted awake as if slapped. I sheepishly wipe the drool swing from my lip, smearing it across my chin, sticking the swaying spit to the side of my hand. What I really need in those moments is a napkin and not a sweater sleeve, but that’s what I have.
If I were on land and had all these symptoms, I’d be convinced that I’d caught the flu. I guess I shouldn’t complain that this is what I have to endure in order to span a distance in one day that used to take our ancestors a month, especially since those ancestors used to die from the actual flu or worse when on these long treks. However, if I did that I wouldn’t have a blog for today and I am not about to stop my uninterrupted upload streak.