13 November 2008

Holding Pattern

For the past week or two, I've felt like I'm in some kind of holding pattern.

Those blinking lights, up in the sky? The ones that are circling over and over again? Yeah, that's sort of how I feel right now.

The Captain is in the cockpit waiting for the tower to radio in and tell him to start his descent. Then he'll tell us to put our seat backs and tray tables in their upright positions because, dammit, we'll be landing soon. I don't know exactly when that's going to happen. I'm not sure if the Captain knows, either.

I trust in the Captain to get us to the tarmac safely, just as soon as he's got clearance, Clarence. It doesn't make me any less anxious about the landing. What really worries me sometimes is that we might even run out of fuel before we're told to come down. Then again, that never really happens ... does it?

What do you do when you're on a plane, waiting to touch down or waiting to arrive at whatever destination you're headed to?

You read the silly Sky Mall catalog, or doodle on the crossword puzzle that some other bored passenger on a previous flight half-finished (in ink, no less).

You listen to music, if you have any, or you watch the in-flight movie: some second-rate film you've never heard of, starring actors who are vaguely familiar yet ultimately forgettable.

You wait for the flight attendants to bring by your little bag of pretzels and your half-can of ginger ale.

Maybe you even make small talk with the people sitting next to you, or you try to sleep in some vain attempt at making the time pass just that much faster.

Me? I try to close my eyes, though I rarely sleep. I'm afraid that if I do, my jaw will sag open and I'll drool down the front of my shirt like an infant. I cross my arms so that I don't elbow the folks to my left and right (because the airline, in its infinite wisdom, will ultimately put me in a middle seat unless I pay some ridiculous fee to be elsewhere).

The trouble with that, though, is that I don't get much done. I sit and I wait. There is a vague sense of time passing, but looking at my MP3 player or watch only tells me that it's been a quarter of an hour since the last time I checked.

And there, below us, are the lights of the airport runway, pulsing. If I had the window seat, I could look down and see them. As it is, I have to imagine them, picturing them in my mind's eye. Red, orange, green, blue.

I just want to land. That's not so much to ask, is it? I'm tired of being on this plane. I'm tired of the Captain's occasional broadcasts, which always end the same way. There's a brief flare of hope when you hear the crackle of the intercom. Is he going to tell us we're going to land?

"Looks like we're going to be up here for a bit longer," he drawls apologetically. "Sorry for the inconvenience."

It's not his fault. I'm sure the Captain has places he'd rather be. He's got other passengers waiting down in the terminal, and they're probably irate and anxious because their flight has been delayed.

So I'll keep on waiting, checking my watch, and staring at the backs of my eyelids. This crate's gonna land sometime -- it has to.

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