Flying has always seemed wondrous to me. Clouds spawn and give forth their scent as they slice through the breadth of the sky. Looking from the plane window, the earth appears humbled and scared from 30,000 feet skyward. Mountains, rivers, plateaus, and deserts are viewed with a capacious eye and marvel of thought. Farms are a patchwork quilt of shaded colors as they exhibit a desire to disappear from window’s view.
Clouds escort our flight, and with winged fingers caress the plane with gentle downward draft of recognition, as though beckoning us eastward toward a colony of dark clouds which spawned these high flying greeters.
Three hours out of Los Angles and on the glide path to Dallas, the bottom appears to drop out of the plane. There is a metallic bong like a Tibetan monk announcing lunch to be served, and several small lighted-signs telling us to fasten our seat belts. The captain’s voice is calm, but holds the illusion of suppressed anxiety. “Ladies and gentlemen there’s a pretty good sized bank of storm clouds near Dallas that is going to make our ride into DFW Airport a little bumpy. Lightning to the northwest of Dallas and the city may cause a slight delay.”
Then, as if a giant monster is playing with the aircraft, the plane bucks upward and then drops down fast and further down. Trays can be heard falling on the floor in the rear of the plane. A small child seated behind me is being consoled by his mother, as a woman’s crying seems to amplify throughout the coach section.
The two flight attendants pass up the aisle toward the front, shrouded by their whispered voices. My heart leaps into my throat and is held there only by the large knot of fright that refuses to budge. The plane rocks, causing one of the overhead compartments to open and scatter its briefcase contents on the unsuspecting heads of the passengers. The plane lifts forward, sending the debris from that compartment sliding down the aisle.
A man in front of me jumps up and runs toward the back of the plane, ignoring the signs telling us to remain seated and buckled in. The call from nature in the bathroom outweighs the call of nature’s fury from the sky.
Lightning can be seen in the north as the plane and her passengers tremble toward that direction. A slight electrical bopping brings us this message, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain. This storm is a little stronger that the radar has indicated, so we are going to try to skirt the bigger part of the storm and hope that it has cleared out by the time we get ready to land.”
There is complete silence in the cabin. It is as if time is held spellbound and no one can move or speak. We have been swallowed by the unknown. An unknown that answers to no mortal and has no fear of anything earthly. Behind me and to the right I hear, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” just as the plane swaggers from side to side shaking like a near drowned dog.
The lady in the middle seat next to me takes my hand. Her eyes are closed and I can hear the semblance of a prayer anchored with soft sobbing. I, too, bow my head and pray a prayer of penitence and forgiveness. I ask God to deliver me from what I fully expect to be my demise.
I swear that, if I am allowed to live, I will be a kinder and more forgiving person and lead a better life. I promise to give up every vice I have (too numerous to mention in this short column). Why, I was so scared that I promised to drink only one canned Dr Pepper a day and not believe that Fox News is the only credible news organization in America today.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to be starting our descent into DFW in a few minutes. Most of the storm has moved on through the area, but once we are on the ground we will need to wait a while before we disembark, because of the lightning still over the city of Dallas.” We started our descent and it was bumpy, bumpy, and bumpy.
Finally, we were safely on the ground, and most of the passengers had left the plane. I moved from the window seat to the aisle seat, but my legs would not allow me to stand just yet. I sat there with my head in my hands savoring the thoughts of still being alive.
“Sir, sir,” said the sweet voice, chaperoned by a west Texas drawl. I lifted my head and was looking into an old-fashioned white apron that was densely sprinkled with strawberry patterns. “Can I get you something? Are you all right?” The owner of that apron was a red haired, bright blue-eyed airline stewardess with a welcoming smile.
“No Ma’am, I am just trying to get my bearings.”
For a moment she disappeared. Then she was back, proudly displaying her apron as she handed me a large plastic cup of iced beverage. “I served you a Dr Pepper earlier, and thought you might like a tall glass of it for the road.”
“Well, I would like to, but I promised God if I didn’t die I would cut back on my Dr Pepper. I know that may sound kind of foolish to you.”
“Not really,” she said with a wink. “I promised Him I would quit smoking and do more housework.”
“Well, then,” I said, “Why don’t I just not smoke and do more housework, and you promise to drink only one Dr Pepper a day.”
“Sounds good to me. I prefer a martini, haven’t had a Dr Pepper since college, and I hate housework.”
“Yeah, and I have never smoked,” I offered.
“Do you think God will be offended?” she asked.
“Well, there are always more flights for us to take the pledge,” I suggested.
“Then how about that DP for the road?” she asked.
“Sounds good to me. I think I’ll go home and do the laundry,” I said.