" So I found myself doing just that as I gazed from the jet's plastic window this past weekend.
I fly just frequently enough to feel some comfort with the process, but not enough to allay the fears of the bazillion things that could result in my hurtling to my death among strangers.
Did the pilot sleep well? Check the oil pressure? Are those geese up there? I take special pains to make eye contact with the flight attendants during their pre-flight soliloquy.
I want them to know I appreciate their efforts.
They may just remember this nice bald-headed gentleman as he struggles to make his seat cushion a flotation device when we have to ditch somewhere over the Illinois prairie.
I especially like the part about the oxygen mask: "Place the mask over your face, pull the cord and breathe normally.
" Are you kidding me? Breathe normally? I'll be lucky if I'm breathing at all! Then the pilot tells everyone to prepare for take-off.
The crowd grows eerily quiet, some feigning indifference, others most-assuredly praying, still others white-knuckling the arm rests as we race down the tarmac and lift off gently into the blue.
Once you're up, the ears stop popping and you settle into your two-foot-by-six-foot allotment of cabin space, there is a certain Zen quality to a flight.
You can read, stare at the clouds, or just close your eyes and listen to the muted conversations.
There is the pop of the soda cans as the cart rolls by.
The gradual increase in conversation as nerves settle.
The steady, immensely reassuring roar of the engines.
If you're lucky, the lady next to you doesn't have an annoying throat-clearing problem (paper napkin stuffed discretely in the ears helps), or the kid in front of you doesn't keep saying what everyone else on the plane is thinking while sitting on the runway at O'Hare for 20 minutes waiting for a gate: "I want to get off, I want to get off, lemme get off, NOW.
" Just before this lovely discourse from the little darlin', there is the tummy-tumbling occasion of what is in effect a controlled fall from 30,000 feet.
It starts an incredible distance from your destination, as the engines cut back and you have an instant of "What the heck?" But when you don't hear screams from the co-pilot, you can assume this is what is supposed to happen, and wonder how this big hunk of stuff is going to slow down from 300mph in a space about four Edward Jones Dome's long.
Speaking of sounds, my favorite is the clunk of the landing gear locking into place.
Then you pray that they Midas-ized them brake pads on schedule, and try to explain to your inner organs that everything will slow down in just a few moments.
All in all, it beats driving.
Just keep on thinking those "happy thoughts.
" ("A BOOMER'S JOURNAL, BY TOM ANSELM, SUBURBAN JOURNALS OF ST.