Close Encounters at 30,000 Feet

I didn’t have my elbow on the arm rest. That was my first mistake. He settled in, commandeered the arm rest, slid his elbow into my ribs, and then flopped his knee against mine. I was flying again.

Four years after my last flight, I was–I’m being vulnerable here, so bear with me–a touch nervous. Let’s say I felt a constant need to do a quick overview of my accounts with God to make sure I was still in the black. Admit it, no matter how common it is to fly, it’s a little nuts to think that we can slap wings and and engine on a long metal tube and presto, you can soar through the air at ridiculous speeds.

The security was tight at the airport. We took off our shoes, opened our bags, and handed over all valid forms of identification to the security crew who swarmed all over the metal detector area. They shot us with puffs of air and waved all kinds of magic wands on our stuff. I’ll admit that I felt pretty good about our safety on the flight.

Once settled on the plane the fellah to my left with his elbow in my side talked and talked. No matter I had a magazine, no matter I was working on my fiction debut masterpiece–he needed to yap a little. I played along, didn’t surrender too much information, and treated him nice.

When I go on vacation I typically lose all social skills. I am a little clam who wants to be introspective, to pray, to read, to study a little theology, and to write. It’s time to catch up with God, and so the clam keeps his little lid shut and broods. Intruders not welcome, with exception of wife.

The one thing he said that caught my attention related to the pilots of smaller planes who fly to the tiny airports, such as our second flight of the day to Fayetteville. He mentioned that these pilots are often not as experienced as those who fly the big planes. When we began our descent into Fayetteville on a tiny plane, the nose of the plane dipped and then it really plunged down. I have never been on a plane that dipped so much on the front end . . . ever.

I don’t think of myself as unreasonable, but at that moment I was a rush of panic, prayer, and pulse. While my palms grew moist, the thought of the elbow in my rib, the knee rubbing mine, and his little comment about the pilots of the small planes danced about in my reeling head. And then in a moment the nose went up, little lights appeared off to the side, and we skidded onto the ground.

And now we’re in NW Arkansas enjoying the green vegetation and the wonderful absence of spring snow and mud. I’m so glad our plane isn’t a small flaming wreck on the ground!

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