Saturday, March 7, 2009

Noses Pressed Against Windows

I headed down to Atlanta, Georgia, for the Women in Aviation, International conference Wednesday, February 25th. Having elected to fly non-rev (again, I have good friends : ) ), I knew I was taking a chance on a flight filling up at the last minute. Everything looked to be in order, so I wasn't worried and began to look forward to the 65-degree weather.

Unfortunately, what makes non-revving so cheap is the fact that it is space-available--and space rapidly and unexpectedly became unavailable. I glumly stared out at the ramp and the snow, trying to figure out which flight to try to hop on next. But, miracles do happen, and despite the fact that the flight was oversold by a seat or two, a spot opened up for me at the last minute.

Having woken up around 4 am, I was exhausted and simply relieved to be on an airplane. Nap time seemed to be in order, until I noticed the little girl across the aisle. Seated next to her mother, she strained against her seat belt to peek over the bottom of the window sill. As the power came forward on the runway, her face lit up and she pressed her nose against the window. She turned excitedly to her mom and pointed, squirming closer to see more.

From the other side of the airplane, I smiled. This girl didn't think flight was routine--it was exotic, exciting, and worthy of wriggling out of her seatbelt for. While everyone else had already pulled out a newspaper or book, she stood at the window, fascinated, wanting more. It was refreshing and reassuring to see a young person, and a girl, no less, so excited about flying.

I wondered if the flight had made an impact upon her. Was it just another experience to check off on some life list, or did she some day want to see what it was like to be at the controls herself? I wanted to write down my information and tell her mom to give me a call so someday she could go flying, so she could feel what flying was like on a much more intimate level.

I didn't. I should have, but I didn't. I worried approaching them would appear odd.

Though I still wish I had talked to the girl and her mother, I walked away with a smile on my face, refreshed by the sight of such enthusiasm.

Maybe this isn't the most eloquent or striking entry, but the experience came at a key time. As the pressures of a full class schedule mounted and the distance between my log book entries increased, I tended to push the simple joys out of my consciousness and focus on the tasks that needed immediate attention. I find it necessary to take a step back and find joy in the little things in life--squinting as I walk to class because it means the sun is out, yawning because it means I stayed up late talking to friends instead of going to bed early, feeling a small tug at my heart when I hear someone else getting to fly because it means I have had the chance to do so myself.

I'm indescribably grateful that I have had the chance to fly and see the world differently, certainly, but sometimes I get caught up in life and commercial flight simply becomes a necessary step in getting to a new destination. My nose was not pressed up against that window. I had pulled out my book and was beginning to catch up on my to-do list.

It took an excited little girl whose name I will never know to remind me of the simple, pure wonder of flight. I think it's something that we become increasingly susceptible to over time--with enough hours, flying is something routine and no longer exotic. If we're lucky, we get to see someone like that little girl to remind us of the joy of flying. I hope that you have not forgotten the primal elation that watching the runway numbers slide gracefully under you evokes. I hope you remember those brilliant days when not even clouds dared to step in your way. I hope you never forget the thrill of that first solo--a thrill far too few get to experience.

I hope you remember those unadulterated, truthful reasons why you fly, whether they make sense or not--and I hope you will remember to speak up and share them with others so they can see what we see.

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