Thursday, October 11, 2007

From 31,000 feet...

This won’t be a photo entry today. Sometimes just my words are all I want to spew onto your computer screen.

I woke at 5am this morning… that was sure fun. It’s literally been months since I’ve woken up and there was no sunlight. Today I’m flying home to Ohio to visit. It’s a visit long overdue.

For some reason it’s a mix of feelings leaving your “new home” for your “old home” for the first time. It’s liberating: for five days work is the least of my worries… although I’ve been gone for only a day and my email inbox is flooded already. It’s also strangely unsettling and I can’t begin to comprehend why. Perhaps it’s a little bit of fear visiting old places knowing that after only three to six months they will assuredly not be the same places I once knew, either in appearance or nature.

Flying is enjoyable to me. But it’s the one thing people love to hate, so hey– I’ll go ahead and hate on it, too.

Driving into the airport a safe hour before my flight, I realized that recent construction had ravaged the airport signage… “where the **** is the daily/weekly parking?” I asked while I circled the airport grounds three times feeling like a complete moron… all the while, my breakfast (consisting of a Qwik Trip donut) taunted me from the passenger’s seat.

It only got worse from there…

Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW) is not a busy airport… except of course for days on which I’m in a hurry. Upon entering the terminal (10 minutes late thanks to the lack of parking signs) I found myself at the ticketing counter behind 20 woodsmen all dressed in camo and their wives (totally not dressed in camo) apparently going on a hunting trip. The line for the security checkpoint was literally going out the door.

As the minutes ticked by getting closer and close to my departure time, I watched helplessly as each of these hunters checked their allotted five guns each. Between frequent mental fits over the delay, I wondered how many frigging guns one man actually needs to kill an animal. Then I realized that what was once a one-gun activity (key word: active) for finding food to live on has modernized and Americanized into a multi-firearm “sport” involving recreational drinking and climbing trees.

For a moment I considered cutting to the front of the line. I immediately realized that was a ludicrous idea: everybody knows you never cross Wisconsin hunters… particularly a group of 20 with enough firepower to form a poorly regulated militia.

Upon getting checked-in I headed to the security line, where – as I said – it only got worse from there…

There are at least 50 people ahead of me. Don’t people pay attention to the TSA rules? Television news only spend half of their newscasts for a week reviewing the changes. Furthermore, it’s not as if they just instituted the no-liquid-rule yesterday. It’s been effective for over a year. Nevertheless, there’s a second line next to the main line of the folks who disregarded the advisories. They stood there upset, chugging their bottles of overpriced spring water with the same vigor as a UW-Madison student doing a keg-stand.

I boarded my plane with just a few minutes to spare.

It only got worse from there…

The plane was smelly.
The plane was sweltering… I think there was a bonfire stoking in first class.

At least I sat next to an interesting person. He did prove the premise that Americans are generally uncomfortable with verbal silence in social settings, but he was nice. He’s worked in the aviation industry, private and public sectors since the 1960s. He wanted to be a licensed commercial pilot but onset diabetes prevented that. He said that one of his employers were part of developing the coatings and paints that make the military’s stealth bombers undetectable by radar. They are also one of many aviation firms trying to develop supersonic aircrafts that are flyable over the continental U.S. – they merely have to find out how to break the sound barrier without making a sonic boom. Interesting stories although I wouldn’t bet my journalistic credibility on them…

Now, I’m at 31,000 feet on my connecting flight from Minneapolis to Columbus. By now, I’m probably over the one state I loathe the most. I’m sitting next to a guy that tried to trick me into taking the window seat… I ain’t no sucker. I’m probably driving him nuts though, because even though I hate the window seat, I love looking out the window. They need to work on airplane design to accommodate both of my needs. My row-mate (sounds like prison) can’t read this because he’s asleep, rudely claiming the center armrest for himself. I’m squeezed in-between him and the drink cart in the twelfth row, right next to the bathroom. Why did I pick these seats again?

The captain just came on and said we’ll be on the ground in 15 minutes. Current weather: light wind and rain.

But the sun will come up tomorrow.
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