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.