Friday, April 06, 2012

No Fear of Flying

Dallas has a lot of swimming pools. I mean, it makes sense, but still--as you fly over almost every single house has a bright blue dot in the backyard. This is what I've observed as I've flown through  the Dallas-Forth Worth airport three times in the last three months. Also, the airport is enormous.

That's all I know about the city of Dallas, since my layovers have never been more than an hour. The first time, in January, we were flying home from Ethiopia on a marathon of flight legs--Addis Ababa to Bahrain, Bahrain to London, London to Dallas, Dallas to San Francisco. Add to that the fact that our layover in Bahrain was nineteen hours long, and that we had walked two miles to the airport in Addis two day earlier only to find out that our flight had been cancelled, and you can imagine how exhausted we were.

(The trip to Ethiopia was really good aside from the canceled flight at the end. More on that later, I hope.)

Four days after I got home from Ethiopia, I flew to Austin for work--passing through Dallas, of course--and I just flew home from Austin yet again today. I love traveling for work: I'm a nerd, I know, but the prospect of working 12 hours a day and then heading to a fancy hotel to exercise at a gym and watch TV until way too late at night is intensely exciting.

I also love flying. Like, really really love it. Long flights get exhausting, of course, but most flights are like a little bubble of time that I'm totally free from distractions and my to-do list. I go into a strange fugue state of idle pleasures, because nothing you do on an airplane counts: I can read uninterrupted, I can listen to music and actually focus on it, I can stare out the window at swimming pools, I can even do the crossword and sudoku puzzles in the in-flight magazine, and I don't have to feel guilty about any of it! Even layovers don't bother me; airports are such interesting microcosms of the real world, like mini cities where the residents are from anywhere and everywhere (especially India) and the restaurants are all bland and overpriced but the chocolate is fabulous.

(What, that's not a selling point for a city?)

Really, though, my love of flying goes deeper than just the time wasting: air travel makes me proud to be human. Stop and think sometime about the coordination and logistical planning that goes into running an airport, but not for too long or you'll get a headache. It's like a complex hive of activity, except there's far more to do than just find flowers and make honey, and I love watching the hustle and bustle of thousands of people heading someplace different. Every time I pass through an airport, I make sure to stop in front of a departure board and imagine the possibilities, and I feel like an astronaut looking up at the night stars.)

And, of course, I love the feeling of takeoff and landing; as far as I'm concerned, it's magic, and I feel proud of my species for figuring it out. I always try to get a window seat when I travel so I can look out the window as the plane goes faster and faster, speeding by the airport and the control tower and the empty land around, and then, just when I think the plane can't possibly get any faster, whoosh! We're in the air! And I pause for a second thinking about how much the airplane weighs and why it shouldn't be able to fly and then I think, "Ha! I'd like to see a chimpanzee do that."