In the past few weeks we've seen an endless stream of opinions come out about reclining seats and boarding order and carry-on luggage and this and that, but nobody discusses one of the biggest issues behind flying: the wonder wore off. At what point did we stop appreciating that we're able to fly?
It sounds like a childish or at least naive argument to make — and sure it is! — but it's sad that for so many the wonder of flight ceased to be. Even with all of the people finishing up last-minute reports or catching up on sleep, it's astounding to go on an airplane and look across a sea of heads doing everything except for looking out the window. Maybe it's the avgeek or weather nerd in me, but I have to look out the window when I'm on a plane. Not only is it amazing that we were able to figure out how to fly, but observing the atmosphere from within rather than from below is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Now, I can see some of the comments already. "How are we supposed to enjoy the clouds whizzing by our window if I'm crammed in and can't move?" I'm a larger guy (read: fat), and I am almost never comfortable on flights no matter the size of the plane or the length of the flight. Sure, the sardinecanification of coach by airlines doesn't help, but I freely admit that it's my own damn fault that I'm not comfortable on an airplane. But even though I'm crammed into my seat (or pinned into my seat when the person in front of me reclines), it doesn't affect my ability to turn my head left or right and gawk at the atmosphere like a little kid.
Whether you fly once in your life or several times per month, flying should be an experience. We're supposed to be fixed to the ground, but we found a way to break free and cross the world in a matter of hours. Even though I've had to fly more times than I'd like to count, it never gets old looking out the window at a scene nearly every generation of humans before us could only dream of witnessing.
The only two people I see on flights openly appreciating that fact that we're flying are little kids and older adults. A few years ago I had to fly on a tiny regional jet from Mobile to Atlanta, and I sat across the aisle from an elderly couple who had to be in their seventies. The husband had the window seat, and I remember glancing over on takeoff to see him grinning and pointing things out to his wife. He was beside himself and overjoyed by the experience. Without thinking about it, I pivoted my camera from the window to the gentleman enjoying the flight; to this day it's one of my favorite pictures.
That in just over one hundred years we've gone from two brothers on a beach to flying across the world in just a few hours is an incredible feat in and of itself. When you combine that with the beauty of nature, it's a wonder how we're able to take flying for granted without stopping to appreciate the beauty around us.
Take a few minutes to stare out the window the next time you fly. I promise it's worth it.
[All images by the author]