Random Kindness on a Plane

Sometimes people say things so strange and so nakedly positive that you smile and carry their words with you for the rest of your life.  On landing at DFW at the end of a flight from Detroit, as a procession of passengers and I passed by the cockpit and deboarded the plane, a woman whom I had sat next to for the entire flight turned to the pilot, smiled, and said, “What a beautiful experience.”  She didn’t thank him mechanically, as I did; she commented on the pleasure of flying.  She complimented the pilot on his art.  She experienced the flight as a child might, with innocent wonder, yet she spoke of it with the gravity of an adult who has seen many wonderful things and who comments only on those her experience tells her are transcendent. 

Moments before her comment to the pilot, this woman had turned to me as we began to file toward the front of the plane and told me to “take care.”  On this three-hour flight from Detroit neither one of us had uttered a word to the other.  Yet despite this lack of any connection, even a fleeting one, this woman felt compelled to wish me well.  She smiled so tenderly at me.  I don’t know why.  She did so even after I dumbly made her repeat herself because I didn’t understand what she had said. 

And hers was the middle seat!

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Recently I got back from a trip to Puerto Rico.  I haven’t had time to write anything of quality about it, but I did want to share a few pictures. 

Castillo del Morro

View down the coastline from el Castillo de San Cristobal

Sunset

 

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You Could Be Anyone and Go Anywhere: The Beauty and Violence of Planes and Airports

This photo and all that follow are from Founders Plaza, overlooking Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport

Near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport there is a park called Founder’s Plaza.  From here you can watch planes take off and land, you can have a picnic, lie on the grass and stare up at the sky, or close your eyes and listen to the thunder of jet engines and feel their vibrations course through your body.  I’ve seen couples in this park, families, airport employees, aviation aficionados, and, occasionally, police officers when someone has wandered too close to the security fence that separates the park from the airport. 

Sit on a bench here in Founder’s Plaza and you will see the entire airport spread before you.  From here the immense terminals, the control towers, the fat jumbo jets, the baggage cars, the ground crews and the runways take on the appearance of a miniature lego-set.  For a moment it stikes you that a child may well have assembled the entire contraption, but then the roar of jets taking off and landing dispells any such notion.

The planes come and go with such frequency that you might expect a collision here and there, a miscommunication that might place two planes on the same runway, one landing, the other throttling toward take-off.  Yet perfect order reigns here.  The catastrophe is a predictable non-occurrence for being always averted.

The airport screams destruction.  Close your eyes and listen as the smaller planes rev up, first with a metallic whine, then a high pitched screech, until finally they explode down the runway.  Close your eyes and you might imagine that you stand at the epicenter of a dozen earthquakes cascading outward one after another, flinging the crust of the earth skyward like a bed sheet flapping on a clothes line before a storm.

The larger planes are quieter to the ear.  They rumble like distant thunder and propagate their power through the ground, so that you tremble with them and glimpse through their dissipated vibrations a knowledge of destruction collared and tamed for human purposes.

You could be a passenger on any one of those planes going anywhere in the world, bound for London, Paris, Seoul or Istanbul.  You could be any one of those tiny faces staring out the window at the flatness that surrounds DFW International Airport, at the big blue Texas sky that hangs over fields of parched grass yellowed by winter.  Maybe you see home.  Maybe you see nothing more than a random airport fit only for a layover of minutes or hours, or even a day if the weather is bad elsewhere on your route, if the pilot has taken ill, or if your plane has suffered a mechanical failure.

You could be anyone and go anywhere.  And for the duration of the journey you could be nowhere at all, suspended in the netherworld between departure and arrival where only the roar of the engines, the vibration of your tray table, and the clouds gliding by remind you that you’re in motion.