Long ago, I began this blog as a way to explore ways to be happy in my own life. I have tried and succeeded, and tried and failed, but the experiment is still worthy, and so after a long hiatus here I am again, offering ideas that at least two people might read.
My wife and I flew to Arizona for Winter Break. We had not flown in I-don't-know-how-long; the last time we tried, we canceled a flight on March 13, 2020, the day most everyone in America locked down. But as we hadn't been away for some time, and as we were both vaxxed and boosted, we decided this year we would get away.
I like flying. I rarely do it, largely due to economics, but I am always fascinated by it. As a former history teacher, it seems odd to me how we forget just how far along aviation came, and in how little time. Less than 120 years ago, the Wright Brothers owned a bicycle shop. Less than 60 years ago, two Americans walked on the moon.
On those rare occasions when I do fly, I am equally fascinated--for entirely different reasons--at those who seem to find it the worst time of their lives. I'm a cautious flyer: I get there early. I check my bags and find my gate and sit down near it, and rarely move unless I choose to risk a trip to the bathroom. That gives me a lot of time to watch people. Let me tell you: as I watch these people, a lot of them are miserable.
There are delays at the airport. Cancelled flights are a real thing. People get upset by this. People seem to dislike the TSA agents, as though working to keep us safe was more of a pain in the backside than the possibility of being unsafe. I have my own issues with TSA. Well, only one issue, really; they take my belt. I am an overweight individual with a belly, and I am often unnerved at having to give away my belt and then stand with my arms over my head. I know TSA agents make me do this to make certain no unauthorized weaponry makes it onto the plane -- and I approve of that -- but it also makes me pose with my hands up while clenching my buttcheeks in the hopes my beltless pants don't fall to my ankles while I'm standing in line in airport security.
Still: the joy of flying is not in all the things necessary in getting to the gate; the joy of flying is in the actual flying. Once I'm seated on the plane and as comfy as I can be, usually with a book I've been waiting to read, all is well. Flight attendants offer me various enticements, but I always refuse, because I have a book, so I'm good. Then the plane taxis out, and I feel that push in the center of my back and then I and all my fellow passengers are flying through the air, and my gosh, isn't that amazing?
I think so. But not everyone does. And honestly, I don't know how to help those people. Those people who are unhappy on flights just seem to me to be missing the miracle. If you're one of those people, I mean you no offense, but I hope you'll learn to stay in the moment.
The pilot gets on the P.A. system and does her or his whole thing, which on my most recent flight was, "We'll be climbing to a cruising altitude of just over 30,000 feet," and I thought, "Are you kidding me? We're on the limits of outer space!" Most flights these days have a little screen on the seat in front of them, and while they offer movies and sports and things, I ignore those -- I think I mentioned, I brought a book -- but I like the Flight Tracker option, where I can see roughly where we are in the journey, the outside temps, our rough trajectory, and our traveling speed.
I didn't pay attention to all of it, because I had a good book (The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, if you're curious; I highly recommend it). But every once in a while I would glance up to check the screen. And--somewhere over Nebraska--I noticed we were traveling in excess of 600 miles per hour. Outside, the temperature was below -70 degrees Fahrenheit. And before I dropped my gaze and returned to my book, I glanced across the aisle, where the gentleman seated there was on his third double-whisky and Coke (it was Noon, Central Time), and who put that third drink down and began to frantically tap on the screen of the seat in front of him. He traveled near the limits of space. He traveled at over 600 miles per hour. Outside, it was less than 70 degrees below zero. But he had to pound on his screen while he sat in jeans and a t-shirt, because his Wi-Fi was lagging while he traveled at more than 600 m.p.h. at the limits of space, when it was -78 degrees outside!
My point is not that my neighbor across the aisle made me have a bad flight; he didn't. My point is that we seem to be losing touch with the miracle of everything around us. This blog, when it began, was dedicated to the concept of happiness. I don't always succeed as much as I might wish to, but I at least yearn toward that outcome. Many of those flying, it seems to me, are crabby even before they get to the airport.
I don't know how to fix this. Maybe non-crabby people could promise to remain non-crabby in exchange for a lower rate. Maybe those like myself who marvel at being able to read a good book on the limits of outer space could fly First Class for the same price as the crabby people in Coach.
But the truth is, I don't have to fix it. The larger point is that in 2022, I hope any and all who read this blog will take a moment to recognize how amazing all this is. I hope you'll stop pounding on the screen in front of you and enjoy a good book. And I hope you will all appreciate the miracles all around us, even if you do it with clenched buttcheeks and hands in the air. Because the truth is, you never know. Maybe this is your year. Maybe you'll get to experience something you never have before. Maybe we'll all finally get to take our masks off without worries of being branded an ignorant Republican.
And the truth is, maybe not... Sorry, but I just don't know. Still, within the last month I sat calmly and read a good book while traveling over 600 miles per hour on the edge of space. Anything is possible, my friends. Let's choose to believe good things are coming.