I'm embarking on a nine hour flight to discover the wonders of New England, US of A. It's our first family holiday outside of the UK since a two week excursion to Austria when I was 10. Now at 17, I'd just finished Sixth Form and had a free summer to do as I pleased before the dreaded results day in August. My sister was in the same boat having just finished sitting her GCSE's. The 'Rents' had obviously planned ahead with this one, knowing full well that we'd both be free of education before most families, and so booked this year's holiday before the fever season. I had great expectations after last year's lovely-yet-tame 'Discover Ireland' experience..
KLM Royal Dutch Airline flight from Amsterdam to Boston. Seat J4. Centre aisle. No window; no view...
A fairly fault-free take-off - just the way I like it. I don't fly often, this being my fourth ever time on a plane. The first two were somewhat bad experiences, namely due to the excruciating tooth ache playing havoc to and from Austria. I love the feeling of being thrown back into the seat by the immense forces of acceleration, leaving my vital organs halfway down the runway, the pit of my stomach desperately wanting to stay at one with it's old friend gravity. I had quickly established the take-off to be my favourite part of any flight, soaring into the air, turning and accelerating onto the pre-set flight path providing that real sense of flying.
Twenty minutes into the flight - I'm bored. In-flight entertainment includes such hit films as Vantage Point, The Negotiator, and Gone in 60 Seconds. Tempting though they are, I opt for the iPod and Of Mice and Men. One hour and not enough chapters later, I've finished the book, and I look for some other source of inspiration to keep my mind busy. I start drawing. Drawing what? The enticing view in front of me, of course! That view being the back of seat I3. Great detail is involved in this creation, fine strokes of blue Parker ball-point pen gliding across the pages of my Laurel and Hardy Museum notepad.
It's now that the thoughts started cropping up. I'm an evolutionist, an avid believer in science and technology, and had never before doubted the capabilities of an aircraft. Literally thousands of flights take place every day across the globe. And how many of those thousands end up on the News at 10, shown to have plummeted back to Earth in a raging inferno or skating the surface of the ocean and transferring its cargo to inflatable dinghy's. At this point my mind starts giving itself something of a reality check:
"WHAT AM I DOING!? I'm in a giant, comfy tin can, hurtling through the Stratosphere at I'm-not-sure-I-want-to-know what velocity, and I expect to survive to tell the tale! PAH! I may as well be suited up and laid to rest, I'm already in my coffin of aluminium and rivets. Hopefully the cremation may be swift enough for my ashes to ride the Gulf Stream and scatter over the seven seas!
I had much higher hopes (not literally) of a grander send-off that this. Perhaps to die with my loved ones around me, or watching the Sun set over the mountains I'd been raised to love with that one special person, or, maybe even taking a bullet to save those same people. I would have also expected something at least half-decent as a last meal to be honest.. But, alas, it's 'Sweet or Savoury?', 'Chicken or Vegetable?' - not quite the cuisine I would have hoped for. I'm not even old enough for a decent drink!
But, after my little mental rant, I re-found my faith in the aero-physicists, science boffins, nerds if you will, behind this Goliath flying contraption. Whatever physics and witchcraft had gone into holding this Boeing 737 above the clouds was beyond me, but, it was working. So far, so good. I could only hope that I ended up in the lucky majority who don't crash and burn, burn and burn some more.
My mind now at ease, I set the iPod to shuffle and prepare myself for another seven and a half hours of deep thought.
Two hours in - 'The Negotiator'. It was bound to happen...