slice of life by killre
The 737 that carried my fat [donkey] back to the Left Coast at the end of my Christmas vay-kay had just come out of the O'Hare sky through the leading edge of an ice fog that had frozen the flaps in the whatever position and probably caused enough other aerodynamic idiosyncrasies that the screws who run the airline were forced to admit, grudgingly, that not de-icing the plane just might result in bad public relations. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad they de-iced the plane. I just wish they'd delayed boarding rather than effectively turning the torture of a four-hour flight into the extended nightmare of a five-hour flight. (I know, I know: they needed space inside the terminal for the meeples who were overbooked on the next delayed bird.)
Once we finally got clearance, the pilot didn't [richard] around. His name has successfully escaped from the 9.86% of dying cells inside my skull that I actually use, which is unfortunate because I'd like to give him, um, props. Not standing on ceremony, he pushed the throttles against the stops, released the brakes and away we went in what turned out to be the smoothest takeoff I've ever experienced. Usually, you thunder down the runway and the pilot pulls back on the yoke too early and you continue to thunder down the runway with your nose in the air and your rear wheels too obviously still in contact with the tarmac and you have time to wonder more than once if this baby is ever going to claw her way into the atmosphere.
Then, a heartbeat or two after she does slip the surly bonds, there's that unsettling settle.
If you've ever flown, you know what I mean. Nearly every airliner I've ever ridden has done it. A second or two after the wheels leave the ground, the plane seems to sag in its trajectory-- as if she thought she could do it but suddenly realized she couldn't, like Wile E. Coyote defying gravity until the moment he looks down. It's a subtle, slow-motion dropping sensation that lasts only a moment; then you're climbing again. Well, the guy driving this particular plane proved it doesn't have to be that way: there was no adrenaline-inducing dip.
Before we ever taxied to the starting line, the guy in the middle seat next to me turned to the ten-year-old girl at the window and asked, "Are you flying alone?" It was the start of a conversation that lasted almost the entire flight. I took little part in it because I've been intermittently slogging my way through an unabridged, annotated version of The Arabian Nights (compiled by Sir Richard F. Burton) that is, OMG, so very, very, very, very, very mind-numbing repetitive!! I don't remember the name of the story I was rolling my eyes over, but it comes just after the Seven un-be-[vulgarism]-leeeve-ably repetitive Voyages of Sindbad the Seaman. It starts promisingly, then gets bogged down (heh, as opposed to blogged down) when they march up to the curtain wall of a city that seems to have no gate, so they decide to march around it looking for a way in. Then the following four things happen seven times over...
1. They come to a tablet bearing two lengthy inscriptions. One is written in prose; the other in verse. All the various and verbose inscriptions say essentially the same thing: "Everybody dies. We are already dead, and before you know it you will be too."
2. They spend two sentences weeping over the beauty of the writing.
3. They spend three sentences praising Allah.
4. They walk to the next tablet.
Now go back and read that six more times while I go smoke a cigarette. Don't worry, *cough,* I'll catch up.
Repetitive, right? Redundant and reiterative, too. By the fifth tablet, I was expecting the inscription to say, "O son of Adam, are you really still wasting your time reading these? Because they all say the same thing. #PraiseAllah"
The book is 882 pages long. I reckon 670 of them are unnecessary. So, understandably, I heard a great deal of the patter exchanged by the man in the middle and the girl at the window. I don't know precisely how precocious that pint-sized, prepubescent punky-brewster is, but she uttered a plethora of ponderable and opinionated pronouncements. My first contribution to the convo was when they couldn't remember the title of That Movie-- You Know The One? I cleared my throat and said, "Slumdog Millionaire." They looked at me as if they hadn't known I was capable of speech and said, "Y-y-yeah." Then they ignored me for two hours. I was okay with it.
She, apparently, is from the tiny town of Way The Hell Far And Gone Up North In, Canada-- a fact that led to my next verbalization. She claimed the average high temperature in summer is only two degrees, Celsius. The guy said, "How much is that in Fahrenheit?" I was heartened by that; I consider it a small but significant step up from "How much is that in American?" She replied that she didn't know; they never use Fahrenheit where she's from. Then she asked him if he had a conversion app on his phone. Just as he started to paw blindly at his pocket, I cleared my throat again: "It's about thirty-six degrees."
I must have said it authoritatively. When he looked at me and asked, "Thirty-six degrees?" it was in more of a can-you-believe-that tone than how-the-Hell-do-you-know. I assumed it was the former, anyway. I held up my hand and said, "All I did was the math. It's not my story." He grinned and said, "Oh, yeah-yeah," started to turn back to the girl, then snapped his eyes back to me and said, "Wait, how'd you do that?"
So I explained to them both how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and vice versa. I'll not trouble you with it, dear reader, for two reasons. One: it's one of those things where the explanation sounds far more complicated than the actual procedure. Two: chances are good you either already know, or never want to.
Incidentally, the girl soon revised the average summer temp in Far And Gone up to about forty-one, Fahrenheit. I figure that's another small but significant step.
P.S.... Dan "The Problem With Wishing People A Happy New Year On This Site Is Is You're Never Really Certain Where To Put The F-bomb" Hicks must go.