I’m in the window seat typing...when out of the corner of my eye out the window I see what looks to be a rocket. It’s a plane, of course. But it’s incredibly close. For a few seconds it shoots by and if not for the incredible speed that the plane is doing I’d be able to see passengers in the porthole windows. The plane is at a lower altitude than ours, but it still feels very near. Is it half a mile away? A quarter mile? What strikes me the most is that the contrail coming out from behind the plane is not the lovely bright white normally seen from the ground; instead, it’s a caustic-looking pitch-black line of smoke.
I’m having a gin and tonic in seat 12F at 11 a.m. The drink is almost gone and so I put my nose deep into the plastic cup—clean, effervescent, and piney. We’re approaching Denver; I want to lick the sap off a pine, but know that I won’t get a chance to do so. I’ll be up to my elbows in petroleum discussion: a professional development conference called PEICE, for Petroleum Engineering for Non-Engineers. And odd or not, this plastic cup’s contact high will have to suffice for a trip out into Colorado's wilderness.
I'm watching the 16-year-old girl in the seat next to me as she tries to read what I’m writing here. She really should stick to the book she’s brought with: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I decide to make my text smaller by 50%, so that she can’t read this. Her mother is one seat over and has an iPad, complete with iPad bra, displaying one of the books of the New Testament.
Suddenly I'm filled with dread: I can't figure out exactly when I stopped believing in God, when I gave up pursuing real career goals, and when I ceased thinking that airplanes are the most amazing machines ever made.
Konrad Eisen is a systems analyst for a midsize insurance company in Atlanta.