Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tornadoes, Shmornadoes

My mobile phone rang as I swigged motel orange juice from a tiny foam cup. The storms had let up a little from the night before, but the motel lobby TV still showed tornado watches and warnings in the area. I figured the pilot was calling to say the flight had been delayed. I pulled the phone from my belt clip and flipped it open. Somehow, that never makes me feel as cool as Captain Kirk looked when I was a kid. With good reason that morning, it seemed.

“This is Mark.”

“Are you joining us today?” the man on the other end asked.

“Yes, at 7:30, right?”

He replied, politely, “No, it’s at 7:00.”

“Oh, jeez. Yes, I’m just at the Super 8. I’m on my way.” I glanced at my watch. 7:09.

Ignoring the fact that I said, “Oh, jeez,” I grabbed my things and ran to the waiting Chevy Malibu rental, wind-blown rain spitting on me all the way. I drove through the small town as quickly as I could without attracting unwanted attention, to the small airport in the middle of cattle pastures. I parked under the covered loading area at 7:16.

“So, we’re okay for today?” I asked the pilot who had just taken my luggage.

“It will be a little rough on the climb out,” he said. Then, to the other pilot, who sat in the cockpit. “Hey, you have the keys?”

Clearly in a rush, the pilot in the cockpit stood and leaned out far enough to toss the keys through the small doorway. The keys went past the luggage pilot’s hurried hands and hit the ground.

“Sorry I’ve put everybody in such a rush,” I offered, somewhat lamely.

Another man emerged from the hangar and walked quickly toward the plane. “Is the window of opportunity closing?” he asked, clearly privy to information I did not have.

The cockpit pilot said, “Yes, it’s getting close.”

”That would be our window for takeoff?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s the one,” Cockpit said.

“There’s a storm surge moving in,” said Hangar Guy as he climbed the few steps into the cabin and walked past me to take a seat.

Luggage pilot joined us and, as he pulled up the steps behind him and secured the door, said, “Guys, we’ll have a bumpy ride for about the first five minutes, and then it will be smooth sailing.”

Yeah, it’s the first five minutes that get you. I couldn’t believe it. After all that worrying last night, now I had made us late and possibly complicated things.

My part in it notwithstanding, I figured they wouldn’t need me for a while. I pulled out my music player, inserted the earbuds, and pushed play. Eddie Grant’s “Electric Avenue” took us down the runway and up into the clouds. When the first big bump hit, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes.

It was rough. The plane once dropped enough for my seatbelt to dig into my hips. We bumped and bounced through the storm, and then the bumpy ascent was over almost as soon as it started. Eddie Grant turned my ears over to The Who, and the opening bars of “Who Are You” played as we leveled off above the clouds. Storm clouds are a striking sight from above.

I pulled out my laptop to start this post while it was fresh in my mind. Joe Satriani accompanies me as I type. We’re getting closer to the clouds. We were at cruising altitude less than 45 minutes.

I always think of my wife and son when I’m flying. The movie Spanglish, which I watched last night in my motel room, again reminded me to appreciate what we have. Now, heading back down into storm clouds on our descent, I close my eyes as Sister Hazel plays “The Best I’ll Ever Be.”
I miss you.
I miss being overwhelmed by you.
And I need rescue.
I think I’m fading away.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Wow... excellent post Mark.

Glad you made it safe and sound bud.