Touching the face of God and all like that there

Dorothy Parker once said she didn’t like writing, she liked “having written.” As a writer of sorts I agree with the divinely debauched Ms. P. But, I will also apply her thoughts on writing to flying. I do not like flying, but I like having flown because that means I have arrived intact at a destination I sought, rather than bobbing around mid-Pacific or mid-Atlantic with sharks homing in.

I don’t like flying for a number of other reasons as well. In the first place, its largely excruciatingly boring, and the boredom is only punctuated by moments of stark terror. Turbulence always unnerves me; the seats are always uncomfortable; and the second the flight attendants block the passageway with the drink trolley, I know that I will have to pee more urgently than I’ve ever had to in my life.

I won’t even get into the excruciating and insultingly outrageous security checks we all have to undergo these days. The only people to have gained from those hideous exercises are the chronic exhibitionists. “Hey, please, I really want to show you my junk!”

I have had only a few very good moments on an airplane. I’ve never joined, nor been invited to join the ‘Mile High Club’ (sigh) but I have met some interesting people. I met a very young lady well over 20 years ago on a flight and she was ultimately a peson who became one of my best friends in this universe. Once, on a flight from Vancouver to Honolulu (on the wonderful and hugely lamented Wardair) I was actually hit upon by a gorgeous flight attendant who left no doubt that she would like me to join her for her three-day layover in Hawaii. She didn’t define exactly what she meant by ‘layover’, but being no naif (I don’t think), I got the gist of her invitation. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I was hugely married at the time and my wife was asleep in the seat immediately in front of where I was sitting.

But, I can honestly say I have had one flying experience that could never be matched by any prosaic commercial airline offering, and that was the time I flew in a Canadian Air Force T-bird (pictured above). In gratitude for all the nice things I had written about our local airbase, CFB Comox, I was invited to take a flight in a vintage fighter jet. That was an event in my life that wasn’t boring. The pilot told me that such a flight is the closest you will get to the exultation of sex with your clothes on. He was right. After a full five-hour training session (in which I learned how to eject, God forbid, and other bits of esoterica) we took off in this bubble-topped rather venerable aircraft. It was amazingly exciting. I actually had the sensation of speed as we screamed across the Comox Valley and on towards the Beaufort range, and right out to Nootka Sound within mere minutes. We flew straight, we flew up (whence I found out what G-force really means), we flew down, jeopardizing my lunch, but I kept it down, we did rolls (not as unnerving as you might think), and anything else the pilot had in mind, or was directed to do.

Eventually we had to return, almost to my dismay. We came in by the back way from the west coast of the Island. Our plane and another fighter/trainer screamed at low altitude through a canyon in a scene most reminiscent of Star Wars. The pilot then asked if I would like to see the Glacier from the top. I did very much. He came in so low over the icecap that I felt I could step out of the cockpit and stroll around — except for the fact we were moving at hundreds of miles an hour.

At the end of the flight, I felt like the poet who penned ‘High Flight’. I truly felt like I had stuck out my hand and “touched the cheek of God.” You don’t get that on your average Air Canada flight. You don’t even get a lousy bag of peanuts any more.

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10 responses to “Touching the face of God and all like that there

  1. Nope. Now you get stale pretzels…

    Oh how I envy you that flight!

  2. Oh, this is good! I laughed, I cried, and did it all at work… I have some ‘splaining to do to my boss. Thank goodness it’s lunch-break! (Prose doesn’t usually strike me so deeply. Did you tug on some memory that I can’t identify?)

  3. Oooh, I am so jealous! (but in the best way possible!) 😀

  4. Great post! I’ve been in several smaller planes and props that were flown so miserably one had no choice but to leave lunch behind…This, however, sounds wonderful.

  5. I fly, but I don’t look forward to it. I’m not actually afraid (any more), but I do concentrate quite hard to keep that plane up in the air. Flying in a small plane would be WAAAAAY too intense for me, though. At least on a big one, I can pretend I’m not really in a long metal tube hurtling through the atmosphere. In a small one, there’s no way to keep up that pretense. As you so very well describe, in a small plane, one experiences flight in the true sense of the word.

    Oh – and I’m also afraid of heights. That doesn’t help much when flying.

  6. I’m a complete planeophile – anything from Spitfires to an A380. As a child my idea of a great day out was the observation level of any airport I could find. In my 20s I worked as an Air Stewardess in the Middle East and had some wonderful and unforgettable experiences. I loved to sit in the flight deck for take off and the moment that the plane burst through the clouds into the blue skies and sunshine above was magical. Landing at Hong Kong the old Hong Kong airport was fantastic too but nothing to match your experience, you lucky, lucky thing!

  7. Oh wow! What a flight that must have been. I don’t really like cattle-class flying though it’s strange as I’m always a little envious when I pick up or drop off anyone at the airport…..

  8. You journos get all the best perks!

  9. Dear FF: In most cases we get those perks in lieu of getting a living wage, so I guess it evens out.
    Dear Pinklea: It’s funny. I am hugely acrophobic but my fear of heights doesn’t transfer to air travel.
    Dear WG: I gather the old Hong Kong Airport was kind of pants-wetting scary.
    Dear Selina: I too am envious picking up or dropping off at the airport.
    Dear Kimber: I’m glad it made you jealous, but I say that in a good way.

  10. Wow. Whenever the Blue Angels come to San Francisco (every October,) I fantasize about riding in one of their fighter jets, but have never had the thrill of doing so. What an extraordinary high it must have been, both literally and figuratively.

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