I was sitting on an airplane to Dallas a couple weeks ago. Through the window on my left, distant rivers slipped away under the wing; on my right sat a man I’d never spoken to in my life. He was terrified. He had, in fact, taken three pills in order to get himself into the seat at all. Also, he’d checked the latch on his seat belt three times.
Like that was going to increase his chances of survival should the engines cut out at 30,000 feet.
Personally, I find escalators and cold sores more terrifying than air travel, but I figured it wouldn’t help if I mentioned that the worst possible thing that could happen to us was death. I mean, really: It doesn’t get much simpler or more swift than a commercial airplane crash.
As I was discussing our likelihood of survival with my seatmate on the return flight (apparently a lot of people share this same fear) she proffered the opinion that while death by airplane crash would be swift, don’t we all want to live?
Well, yes. Which is why I don’t smoke, drink mouthwash, or ingest dubiously obtained and/or illegal substances. But I also get in my car and drive it to work every day, and I almost never wash my produce before eating it.
The thing is–once I’ve made the decision to get on the airplane, how awesome is it that my decision making is done until we touch down at our destination? Nothing I do or do not do will affect in the slightest that outcome, and so I put my energies into something infinitely more useful–like eating Skittles and reading “All Quiet on the Western Front” in which people actually are being maimed and dying at alarming rates.
You rarely come across such an unambiguous situation in life. When you buy a house or choose a college or sign an employment contract, that one choice is just the beginning of dozens of other concomitant choices that bombard you daily and could affect your quality of life and possibly that of your children and your children’s children for generations.
Not that there aren’t plenty of situations that might feel like you can’t back out of mid-flight. Parenthood, for one. Once you’ve made that kid, he can’t be unmade. You can end his life, or give him up to another mother, or be an all-around crap bucket of a parent, but those are all choices, too. Marriage is another. You can’t get unmarried–you can make a lot of decisions and throw a lot of punches and some people even reroute an entire flight to the nearest emergency landing so they can get themselves ejected, but isn’t that a lot of trouble?
Life doesn’t get much simpler than a transcontinental flight. Once that airplane taxis down the runway, all you have to do is sit there and not, I don’t know, puncture the window with your ballpoint pen. Whether you eat the red ones first or last isn’t really a cosmic decision.
Dude. Enjoy the ride.
I kind of wanted to kiss him, right above the left eyebrow, like he was a small child, but I thought that would be a little strange and he might get the wrong idea.
Which brings up an entirely different topic of consternation that we will save for tomorrow.