Saturday, September 29, 2012

Flying And The Keys

Modern commercial flight confuses my brain. Two thousand miles, a time change and half a day, and I'm gone from the corn fields of Iowa and back over the salt ponds and mangroves of Key West. If I flew for business as pilot or passenger my head would explode from trying to cope with all the changes at once. Breakfast in a Des Moines hotel and dinner at Santiago's Bodega. Phew! Pass the bottle...

As I stepped out out of the flying cigar into the moist warm air of South Florida I could feel my skin breathe a sigh of relief after all the dry cold air Up North. The lovely warm salty air washed over me like a wave as I stepped out of the plane and off the old fashioned ladder onto the tarmac for the short walk to the terminal.

It's a landing that reminds me of the glamor photography of the sixties when starlets posed in front of those commercial airliners ordinary folk aspired to ride. Flight was expensive and exclusive, reserved for the wealthy and the famous who stood at the top of the steps posing in absurd hats and handbags. Then they made it cheap and accesible when oil was cheap and now that Peak Oil is pushing up the price of oil we still demand cheap flights which leaves airlines going broke and passengers squished in steerage as helpless as cattle in a slaughterhouse. Nowadays anyone with money or time finds a better way to travel, TSA-free charters, trains or the unbeatable classic road trip. Next time, I promised myself as I stood in line in the minuscule loo in the terminal waiting for a smelly turn for relief, next time I will be the captain of my own ship navigating the crumbling roadways of America.

She was glad to see me, her big fat yellow tail swinging wildly as she hopped around unable to believe reality. I hate seeing dogs ignored when they express that sort of excitement so Cheyenne got her full fifteen minutes. It was barely enough.

I got the six am wake up call, a wet nuzzle because Cheyenne knew that me being home meant only one thing, a pre-dawn walk was unavoidable. I temporized trying to delay the inevitable so by the time we got on the road the sun was already well over the horizon and it was a good one, the sunrise we had missed. So good I snapped a quickie as we drove through Big Pine Key. I was still thinking about the miracle of flight. I took another picture closer to our destination, West Summerland Key. 15 minutes in a car transported me across two islands, while a quarter of an hour in a plane would have got me across two small sized states.

The thing about flying is that it's fast and convenient if you need to get there then, but overall it's a dire experience, filled with absurdity. It's not like a train where you walk to the station and get on and leave. Flying involves lots of hurrying up and waiting. I am late to the party when it comes to the nuances of 21st century flight, but nowadays I have discovered you have to check yourself in, pay extra to check a bag via contact with an impatient human being and then go through the absurd rituals of the Richard Reed Memorial security check. It's all about safety they tell us as we remove our shoes and lay out potions and lotions for examination by inexpert members of the formerly unemployed. But they do get us where we want to be.

The thing is they also tell us to not under any circumstances turn on our electronic 'devices' while the plane is struggling to leave terra firma because if we do, it will crash. So it occurs to me that were I a terrorist I'd get a group of my friends together, leave the box cutters and bottles of shampoo at home and board the plane with a perfectly legal bundle of 'devices.' Turn them all on at once and poof, there goes your plane. Of course they could no more force people to check their 'devices' than they can stop themselves from demanding we take off our shoes in that ridiculous safety dance we put on for the sake of social security. We want to be safe but God knows we don't want to be separated from our accursed devices. If we think how unsafe they make us, our consumerist heads explode. Of course riding a motorcycle is as unsafe and pointless as anything and far more absurd a way to travel then actually leaving the ground with the firm conviction that we shall return to it in perfect safety.

I'm no anarchist, I like order and detest chaos so I shuffle along in all appropriate lines and remove my shoes and belt and pack my penknives in my checked luggage ($25extra) and I never ever turn on my Kindle-in-an-iPad until the captain says so. I find it reassuring he remembers to care enough to let me read while he works.

On the whole, if I have to fly I'd rather be a bird like cormorants sitting on a power line perhaps, or an eagle soaring free, not a lesser spotted consumer taking off his shoes before passing through a nudie photo explosives detecting machine.

If I play my cards right I get to stay in the Keys for a good long while and the closest I'll have to get to a commercial plane is watching one fly low over the roofs of Old Town making a great deal of noise. Me safe down here on my properly muffled motorbike, and them Up There in the thin air teetering on the edge of annihilation with their 'devices' in their laps. Good luck brave fliers.