It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression "As pretty as an airport."

Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

I hate flying. I hate it with a passion.

You have to understand, I grew up on trains. If I wanted to go somewhere, I caught a bus to Penn Station in Newark and I got on a train. Sometimes I'd catch a train to another train, or a train to a subway, or a train to a friend with a car, but I never, ever caught a train to an airplane unless I absolutely, positively had to, which turned out to be rarely. Thanks to trains even now, at 25, I've been behind the wheel of a car with the engine running for a grand total of five minutes, and I hated every second. I've flown for longer than I've driven. Think about that.

I am inherently connected to the ground. It's where my feet live. It's how I know where I am at any given moment - worst-case scenario, if I'm lost and confused and mentally exhausted or exhilarated to the point of paranoia, all I need to do is look down and go, well, at least I'm on the ground. This ground is a part of something which is a part of something bigger, and I know that I in some small part fit here because this is where my feet are.

Which would all be well and good as a philosophy, but at the moment I'm in a Boeing 737 that's just leveled off its ascent from La Guardia Airport in Queens on my way to somewhere scarily far away, for a single day. I'll be on the ground in Dallas for eighteen hours before flying back. I will takeoff and land four times total in the next day.

I looked out the window when we were still on the runway, and I wished the running lights weren't red, and I wished they didn't flash like that - it was like an ambulance was parked thirty feet away on the wing just waiting for me to have a coronary. The two Mexican gentlemen sitting next to me (I'm assuming Mexican, probably wrongly, but we're flying to Texas so it's more valid a stereotype than usual, geographically speaking) did two things upon entering the plane: They stowed their cowboy hats in the overhead compartment and they fell asleep. Showoffs.

For the life of me, I can't imagine doing that. The revving and slowing of the engine as it turns and maneuvers on the runway is enough to drive a guy crazy because I can't see out of the front of the damned thing and have no idea when the next ninety degree turn will be the last one. Back in the old days on the Prodigy webboards, there was an internet maze game called, I think, labyrinth. Navigate the maze and be presented with...another maze! Another maze where the walls were different colors! It was phenomenally boring!

Waiting for an airplane to take off is like that, just with sound effects, no walls, and only being able to see the paths to your left and your right - the plane itself is one huge, foggy cataract where, occasionally, dour-looking women push carts towards each other like a medieval joust over Shasta's honor.

So we took off, finally, and the plane dipped and dropped and dipped and nosed down and banked eerily to the right so that I could see the ground outside my window, a particular sulphurescent yellow that only New Jersey and parts of Queens share, and the wing rattled in the air currents and flapped like something Da Vinci imagined rotating on a spindle that would never, ever fly no matter how ridiculous he made it look or what color he painted it, and we rocketed into the sky like we had something to prove. I couldn't stop wincing; I knew we were as likely to die in a plane crash as I would have been to, say, accidentally cause myself permanent brain damage with a Q-Tip, and yet. My feet were throbbing like they were homesick.

Full circle, sort of. We leveled off, and the Mexican woozily closed his window shade, and my feet yelled at me. I ordered a whiskey from the flight attendant. It's 6am, but it'll be 5am soon, so it's okay; If I can't see the sun it doesn't count.

(The Mexicans got off in Chicago.)

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