Friday, July 3, 2009

A trip across the BIG pond

When you cross the Pacific Ocean at night - as I did from LA to Brisbane recently - a calendar day vanishes from your life. And I don't mean that it was a long flight. Nope... I mean a box was skipped on my calendar. I lost June 27'th. I left LA at 10 pm Friday and arrived in Brisbane at 5am Sunday - just 14 hours later. If my birthday had been Saturday June 27'th I would get to be 29 for another whole year. I lost a Saturday. A Saturday of all days!!

We all know about that line drawn down the middle of the pacific, the crossing of which amounts to time-travel. And if you go the other way - leaving Brisbane at noon and flying east - you arrive in LA the morning before you left :) As simple as that concept might be I think its totally awesome.

I love flying. I like the takeoff, the landing, the airplane food. I even like the awkward chat with a stranger. Some of the people closest to me on the other hand, truly fear the big blue sky. Kate, for example, has been known leave a hand-written (and witnessed) 'will' stuck on the refrigerator. Other relatives simply won't fly. And they know what they're missing but they just can't do it. Anxiety, claustrophobia, a total lack of control over your own safety... I can understand all of those. But I also respect the power of numbers - thousands upon thousands of people land safely each day - the statistical equivalent of 'everybody' - and that's enough for me. I'm safe in the pilot's hands.

That being said... I dislike the super friendly pilots who introduce themselves before takeoff and welcome me aboard (as they usually do these days). I'm sure it's done to make the passengers feel at ease but it has the opposite effect on me. I don't want to be reminded that 'a person' is in charge of the plane - especially one who cares about friendly introductions. It's unprofessional. You're not a 'person'. You're a 'pilot'. You were not hired for your charm. Pilots are disciplined. People make mistakes. People are fatigued, emotional, careless. Pilots don't make cute jokes. They fly airplanes. As inappropriate as this will be, a few years ago when I flew from Manchaster to Dublin a young-sounding female Irish pilot with a strong accent and a great sense of humour (obviously) introduced herself over the speaker and told me to sit back and relax and enjoy the flight. Fat chance! I have know some Irish folk in my day and they were - each one of them - great people. Hilarious, wonderful, drunken people. And I would much rather have heard this woman's lovely accent telling stories at a pub then telling me to relax from the cockpit of a jet liner.

But I'm still here :)

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