Notes From the Road: Chicago O’Hare to San Francisco

  • waiting for take-off, love seeing the Ethiopian Airlines plane — and then immediately wonder how badly they’ve been hit, how short they are on vaccines; we’ve GOT to get vaccines to the rest of the world, as fast as possible. Go, go, go.
  • United hands you a little packet with a sanitizing wet wipe on boarding; surface transmission is not so much a thing with COVID, but there are plenty of other bugs out there, and a lot of people in here, so I am happy to wipe down the armrests, tray table, seat pocket, and my hands. We probably should’ve been doing that all along.
  • beverage service is back to normal, which is nice, and they even gave us a few little snacks — pretzels and a Stroopwaffle. Particularly good because while they have additional snacks for sale, you can’t pay for them with a credit card or cash; you need to have loaded your card info onto the United app on your smartphone. If you don’t own a smartphone, I guess you’re out of luck; classist (and ageist) BS. Do better, United.
  • I’m lucky enough to have a window seat, so that wins me a little extra space and just one neighbor; social distancing requirements seem to have gone out the window at this point; this is a full flight.
  • said neighbor is eating a very aromatic hot sandwich that smells delicious; good thing I have plenty of tasty food, or I’d be seriously (silently) cranky right now. Reminds me of the chemo ward, where they asked us not to bring in smelly food, because other people there might be nauseated by the smell, or want some deliciousness, but not be able to eat that kind of thing
  • I’ve covered my legs and feet in my thin travel blanket, and discreetly slipped off my shoes underneath. I know some people are really grossed out by other people’s bare feet; I am not, but would rather not upset people unnecessarily. Hopefully the blanket suffices; my feet tend to swell a bit when we’re up high, so shoes get really uncomfortable.
  • my feet are not smelly, which would be a bigger problem. In general, reducing odor as much as possible when people will be trapped in close quarters seems courteous; I wear perfume much less often than I used to, and tend to avoid heavily scented hair, etc. products.
  • I was a little warm when we were on the ground, but it cooled down once we were up in the air, so it’s no problem keeping on the face mask and face shield; they actually keep my face warm and comfortable. Glad I brought the blanket and hoodie; both are now in use.
  • all those mundane travel details drop away as we take off, heading up to the cloud layer. I love, love, love flying. A little space when nothing is expected of me except existing. I breathe differently, up in the sky.


High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

– John Gillespie Magee

An Anglo-American aviator and poet. Magee served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States entered the war; he died in a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire in 1941.

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