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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Near Death Experience that is Flying

Alright guys. I wrote this blog after stepping off my plane in Charlotte, North Carolina. So I was in a little bit of a funk. I went to bed at 6pm and woke up at 1am. Then I rode in a car for an hour and a half to get to the Ottawa International Airport three hours in advance as required. Now I know... I didn't drive so I can't complain, but still... it was 2 am and I was awake for the day so...
Photo: Josh Cameron

There I sat in the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport at a small table outside Chili's restaurant with four hours to kill. The waitress was sweet enough to let me hold down a table right next to an outlet so I could write this for you

Before I get into the flying, I have to say that I probably had one of the best burgers of my life there. Whether it was that magic touch of southern hospitality or the fact that I was just so tired, I would probably have thought a Big Mac to be the best... I don't know.

So let's talk about flying. I mean... this has become one of our most common modes of transportation. Until the Wright Brothers came along, it was thought to be an impossible/magical feat. Now we treat it as just a normal part of our daily lives. If you really think about it... this is a big deal! We are 37,000+ feet in the air traveling at speeds in the 500 mph ball park! Trust me... all of this stuff runs through your mind when you are high above the clouds, staring out your window. 

If you are like me, you are moderately comfortable with flying. There are those of us who hate it, those who love it, and the 'tweeners like myself. I think it is great and very interesting and all, but I would be lying if I said I didn't ever get nervous. Especially after their just being a crash in San Francisco and you are wondering if your pilot is in training or not.

Photo: Josh Cameron
Let's come up with some examples of why you might get a little anxious. For instance, when the seat belt light comes on and the captain doesn't tell you why. That happened on this flight. No turbulence or anything. We were just in the air soaring smooth and the lights came on. Here I'm thinking, is the engine failing? Did the pilot fall asleep? I feel so uninformed... Or maybe when you go through that ten second pocket of turbulence you see your life flash before your eyes. You grip the arm rests, run the crash scene through your mind and make sure you know how to work the flotation device and oxygen masks.

I always just imagine myself in an old war movie or a super hero flick, thinking of how incredibly bad ass I will become when we start going down. Somehow I will turn my bag into a parachute and make an incredibly daring leap, land in a lake or some trees and be completely unscathed. 

But then reality sets in. The turbulence is over in mere seconds and you feel like an idiot. Your palms are sweaty and heart is racing double time all for nothing. You ask yourself "why?" and the person next to you has certainly made a judgement call on your character. 

Besides those little pockets of near death, I think flying is pretty majestic. Soaring above or under the clouds, seeing the land below... it's so beautiful. This is why I am a window seat kinda guy. You get high above the clouds and they seem to be endless.  

The worst part for me isn't the turbulence though. It is that split second right before the plane tires touch the ground on the landing. The moment when you think... Oh wow that was a really smooth la.... "BOOM!" You hit the ground running! Let's rephrase that. You hit the ground sprinting! And you are Usain Bolt! You cruise down the runway as the plane seems to teeter totter left and right and then you finally come to a quick halt. Then you start breathing and life resumes. 

When you step off the plane, who knows what comes next? You may walk right into the arms of a loving friend or family member. Or maybe you will be sitting in an airport with a seven hour layover... blogging away...  We all have a different destination. 

Now, my next flight was much better. It was on a bigger plane for starters! I am a very short person and I had to crouch in the first plane... do you see a problem here? I'm thankful I got a blanket, because the air conditioning was on high enough to freeze you solid! They served a pretty good dinner considering it was airplane food, but they played one of the saddest movies I have ever seen...

Photo: Josh Cameron
Unfortunately, no matter the circumstances, I can't sleep on planes. I was supposed to sleep so I wasn't as jetlagged, but I couldn't do it... So after landing in Madrid and spending the day traveling to Mallorca, I had been up for almost a day. But it was all worth it because after two long months, I  finally saw my beautiful girlfriend and met her family! You can certainly expect a blog about my trip very soon. 

So now I wanna hear from you guys!! Any horrible flight experiences? Any really good flights? What do you think about the whole process? What was waiting for you beyond your gate?