June 12, 2000



Angels 37


As these words flow from my fingertips, I am aboard Continental Airlines Flight #24 at 37,000 feet above Omaha, Nebraska. I've never been to Nebraska before, never even been over it. Looking down at it through this tiny porthole window, I don't see any reason to improve on that record. This view will do me just fine, I think.

I'm up here because I'm on my way to New Jersey. Weehawken, New Jersey to be exact. I'm headed to the Garden State for a week long "Train the Trainer" session in conjunction with my new job as a Microsoft Office Rotational Training Specialist (say that three times fast, I dare you) for BugBux Financial Institution. Am I looking forward to this? What do you think? Weehawken, baybee! Woo hoo! (Um, I am getting paid for this, right? Okay, cool.) Woo hoo!

Things got a little bumpy up here as we passed over the desert east of L.A. and again as we overflew the Rocky Mountains, but it's settled down now. Takeoff was awhile in coming. Our scheduled departure time was 9:00 a.m.; I think we finally went wheels-up at about 10:00. We pushed away from the gate on time, sure, but then we sat on the tarmac waiting for ... well, you never really know, do you? You just sit and wait and wish they'd turn off the seatbelt sign so you could go pee and wonder which engine is falling off that they're not telling you about and when/if they're going to fix it. And then eventually, of course, you take off. But they don't tell you why they waited. Classified, apparently. They could tell you, but then they'd have to upgrade you.

Speaking of upgrades… I called the airline yesterday to inquire about that. BigBux paid full business fare for me, so I figured it couldn't hurt to at least ask after an upgrade - all they can say is "no," right? Well, it's true, that is all they can say, but they say it with a really snide, snickering tone. But, hey, they'd be happy to upgrade me to 1st Class for one easy payment of $897. Sheesh. At those prices, I want my own personal stewardess -- and a private compartment to share with her.

Anyway, I'm sitting here with three seats all to myself and I'm spread out across them: I'm planted in the middle seat, my coffee and mouse are on the tray table to the right, the seat to the left is making my jacket, newspaper and magazines nice and comfy. I have my cheapy $5 headphones plugged into the laptop, Kevin Gilbert MP3s are serenading me over the aircraft's white noise, and every once in awhile I look up to check the trip stats on the cool little display that dropped down out of the ceiling: Right now we're cruising at 569 mph, we're 1,024 miles out of Newark, we're at 37,000 feet, it's -68 degrees outside, and both wings are apparently still attached to the aircraft. No sign of Bill Shatner out there either, now that I look. (But he was at the table next to me when we went out for sushi a few weeks ago. Remind me to talk about that another time.)

Well, gee. The captain just came on the intercom to tell us that there's "weather" over Chicago and that we'll be swinging north to avoid it -- way north, since there's apparently a lot of weather. Seems we may go so far north that we impinge on Canadian airspace. Well, okay, eh? Let's cross our fingers and hope this doesn't provoke an international incident. War with Canada would be so... Well, funny.

Anyway, in the interests of diplomacy I'll wave down at all my friends from the Great White North as I pass overhead, and maybe I'll hit the lavatory and see what I can do about dropping a big blue popsicle in Dave Van's yard so Cameron can play unsupervised with a cool new weapon of destruction.

Dang. There's that war thing again. You don't want to piss off Canada. They might pee in your Molson. Sorry, eh?

Bump. What was that? You know, for someone who loves flying as much as I do, I'm a lousy airline passenger. Morbid, paranoid, sure that every creak means something bad; flying commercially is not a fun experience for me. This flight... Oh, this one's been a freakin' picnic so far. First there was the delayed takeoff. They explained it away by blaming a back-up getting to the runway, but I knew they were full of it. I knew the real reason was the weird vibrations coming from the left engine. The fact that a crew of mechanics didn't come swarming over us just meant that the cockpit crew was taking turns hammering on the little "engine will explode soon" light, trying to make it go off because "it's probably just a glitch."

And now, here at 7 miles over the Midwest, we've been banking left and right for about half an hour, occasionally doing 720 degree turns, and the flight crew is just sweet as pie about it as they leap into action offering us "coffee, tea, a soft drink, $4 rental headphones?" as though we're not about to tip over into a spiraling death dive into a cornfield. Oh, sure, the captain came on the intercom about 5 minutes ago and explained that "we're in a holding pattern" because "traffic is backed up going into the New York/Newark area," but I know bullshit when I hear it. I heard the edge of fear in his voice, the pause as he got more bad news over his headset from the control tower, I know we've lost all hydraulic pressure and are just burning off fuel before we pancake into Farmer John's back 40. You can't fool me: I know.

1,000 miles later: On final approach to Newark. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the hydraulic pressure. Or, more likely, it was, but they managed to bang the light into submission -- because the plane can't explode if the "engine will explode soon" light isn't on, right? In any event, things seem to be under control and we're just minutes away from landing -- or crashing. Will we make it? If you're reading this, I guess we did.

Weehawken. Woo hoo!