I’m sitting on a plane, packed with people traveling home for the holidays. I made my reservation at the last minute, so, after the TSA gate rape and the x-rayted machines, I’m hemmed into a middle seat, feeling lucky that I saved money by not having to check my bag. Wherefore art thou, the glamour of traveling?
Now the thing is that I love traveling. I have been called a plane slut because I will go anywhere you can get to on a plane. Add in crossing a time zone or two, a language I don’t speak, and maybe something a little off the beaten path, and I’m in heaven. But as much as I love traveling, the way I feel about flying? Meh. Not so much. It used to be glamourous. You got dressed up! The stewardesses were beautiful! And, in some places, like Casablanca, where you board from the tarmac and they serve you mint tea and delicate pastel cookies, it can still feel that way. But most of the time? Not so much. Temple Grandin’s cows endure better conditions. This feels more like what I imagine bus travel in India is like; the only thing that’s missing are the chickens.
Sometimes, when I take a drive to clear my head, I head to the Santa Monica airport. Sitting on the edge of the airfield, watching the planes take off and land, I’m mesmerized by the beauty of flight, by the wonder of flying that hypnotized Icarus, by the pure..well…mindbogglingness of how something heavier than air stays aloft without plummeting to the ground. Last year, a friend took me up in their helicopter. We flew out over the valley, landing on a mountaintop, and then down the PCH, hovering just above the water, and over Brentwood and Bel Air and Beverly Hills. It was a clear day and the city sparkled under my feet. Down below was crowd and madness and rush but up there, where there was just sky and clouds and the whirr of the engine and the blades rotating overhead, it was calm and peaceful and transcendant. There was something divine and powerful; we’re flying! Followed by: we’re flying?
I’d feel so excited to have my own plane. I’d have my own pilot and he’d be handsome in a weathered sort of way and English and formerly RAF. The plane would always be gassed up and ready to go within a few hours of filing our flight plan. Traveling across the pond would be as easy and as pleasant as jumping in the car, with a lot less traffic. Inside, I imagine something like the car in The Diamond As Big As The Ritz, sparkling and cashmere and soft. There’d be seats that slump down into beds and good snacks and fresh juice mixers and real plates and silverware. I could catch up on my Tivo’d shows or stream Netflix or listen to my ITunes, even buy new stuff. There’d be no standing in line to get hassled by the TSA or wishing I’d brought those shoe covers they use in operating rooms because standing here in my socks is…well, I don’t even want to think about it. I could fly when I wanted, where I wanted. I might even take flying lessons and fly myself.
Can I drop you somewhere?
Image: David Keeshan, with a Creative Commons License, some rights reserved