Monday, October 30, 2006

Mister Paranoid Goes Flying

Wednesday I take off for California on one of our major airlines. I get to change planes once each way. Terrific, four take-offs and landings over the next week. I will do anything to visit Mom.

Actually, I'm not really paranoid about flying. I cannot change anything about getting on a vehicle that weighs tons and takes off into the air with no visible means of support. Except, perhaps, changing my attitude about flying, and that ain't gonna happen. No, paranoid fits the description of me facing any bureaucratic authority. I just don't get along with my fellow citizens who are acting in that capacity.

What's there to worry about, you ask? Everything. While going through all those screenings, something about my baggage or pocket contents, or socks after I remove my shoes, is going to tip off one of those highly trained, sharp-eyed, and suspicious guardians of my safety to single me out. From there it goes down hill. Questioning, strip searches and further degradations will be heaped on me. And then, after I'm found to be innocent, (see, officer, I told you my cough drops are not explosive devices.) I have missed my flight, lost my money, and am stranded in the airport, while my clothes and cell phone wing it across the country to Fullerton. Who's going to tell my Mom?

When I was younger and much more naive, I liked to fly. I even liked the air trips back and forth across the Pacific when I was in the Army. I've flown on DC-6Bs, DC-8s, 707s, 747s, 727s and other Boeing products. In the military I flew on Beavers, Otters, Caribous, C-130s, CH-47s. They all carried me safely. There is no one event that changed my mind about flying. Call it an evolution of an attitude, if you will.

The first time flying freaked me out was in 1992 when the whole BRB family, all five of us, flew from Toronto to L.A. One crash would wipe out the whole clan. But of course, me being me, I kept it in and was the bold, intrepid father. Not only that, but planes had gone no smoking that year, and Ms BRB and I tried really hard not to freak during the five and a half hour flights. So next time on a flight to L.A. I had a two hour lay-over in Houston. No smoking on the plane, and the whole freaking airport had gone "smoke free." Smoke free if one didn't count the exhaust fumes that swept into the terminal from all the standing, idling vehicles just outside the entrances. Flying was no longer fun. And there were lots of bureaucratic authority around to enforce being smoke free, right down to the bartender who told one commercial traveler, put it out lady, this is a smoke free airport. Isn't this a goddamned bar? she replied.

Now that sounds as if I have tied flying fun to smoking. Anyone with an addiction that cannot be satisfied when the internal alarm goes off tends to blame the conditions that prevent the satisfying of the craving. But now, smoking is no longer an issue. I still no longer view flying as fun. At least smoking or not smoking isn't an issue.

Also, my family tells me I tend to over react in certain situations. I guess this is where the paranoia comes in. I will honk my horn and wave the appropriate number of fingers at drivers who cause a near miss. I rail at injustice; I bristle at insults, perceived or actual; I suspect EVERY bureaucrat of trying to thwart my needs and wishes. What a way to live.

I know that flying is the safest means of transportation in this country. But one is so much at the mercy of things one cannot control. At least driving gives me the illusion that I am in control. Besides, one can see much more of this great country even from the interstate than one can from thirty thousand feet.

So off I go on Wednesday. I feel much better now.

Did I ever mention the seventh sense? Perhaps it's not a sense like ESP, but more of a collective will. The only reason planes stay in the air is the collective will of all the folks on board to keep it flying. Aerodynamics is a scientific myth. Think about it.

BRB is Write (and calm)


Anonymous Lewis said...

Isn't one of those Beavers, Caribou or Otters also called an OV-10? If so, we had Marine pilots on Oki who could turn those things on a dime. I remember one who flew one between our two radar domes. Scared the beejeezus out of me.

3:14:00 PM  
Anonymous BRB said...

All those planes with animal names are deHaviland's, built in Canada. They had radial piston engines and could take off in just a few yards. Beaver was the smallest, and the Caribou was a twin-engine cargo/passenger plane. Some of those planes saw service in WWII!

3:35:00 PM  

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