Tonight on Twitter, someone wrote:
…which prompted a response from someone I follow…
…to which I said…
But seriously, folks! Why does everyone on the plane shut the window shade throughout the whole flight these days??!!
Being at 5,000, or 25,000, or 45,000 feet gives us a viewpoint on the world that was flat out impossible only 100 years ago, and was still highly unusual to the average person 60 or 70 years ago. Even today, despite how commonplace air travel has begun, for 90%+ of us it’s something we might see once or twice a year. For probably half of the US population or more it’s something they experience only every few years.
The world is a different place seen from above. The clouds come in myriad shapes and forms, flowing over vast distances, breaking up into puffy cotton balls, building into monstrous thunderheads. Sunrise from high altitude is the closest most of us will come to seeing an orbital sunrise, while sunset lingers and elongates time as the sky darkens and the stars come out.
You’ll always know where I’m sitting on the plane if I get a window seat. It doesn’t matter if it’s night – there might be aurora or stars. It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy – I love looking at the clouds. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ten-hour flight over open water – I’ll watch for ships or islands or whales or mermaids.
I’ve seen full double rainbows while dodging thunderstorms on final into DFW. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon as a gash in the earth, while the Rockies covered with snow even in April and May look like the Earth’s ragged teeth. Rivers meandering, from the Mississippi to the Rio Grande and Potomac, tributaries branching off like poster children for fractal math.
Whole cities can be laid out before you. The Las Vegas Strip at night with enough neon to scare away the stars themselves. Washington DC laid out like a model, monuments and tourist sites elbow to elbow. New York City with Central Park beckoning and a lady standing in her harbor, Seattle with Mt. Rainier on guard, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to its neighbors, Chicago and Lake Michigan spreading out like the spokes of a wheel. And for me, the American City of Lights, Los Angeles, lit up like a jewel for 100 miles in every direction, freeways like ribbons of light, the Hollywood sign off to the north, and the fireworks from Disneyland in Anaheim to the south.
Yet on almost flight I’ve taken in the past couple of years, by the time we’ve taxied out and are taking off, 90% of the shades are down. People have logged onto the plane’s wifi and they’re doing the exact same damn things they were doing on the ground. They’re answering boring emails, watching idiot videos, or playing mindless games. While outside, just a few inches away, are wonders and fantastic sights.
We’re jaded. We’ve lost our sense of wonder.
We’ve lost our minds.