Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bench-Pressing Gravity (International Version)

Why hello, India.  Barely 12 hours on your soil, and already do I know that this will be a beautiful and enduring friendship.      

Please forgive me; my body clock is still completely whacked after spending most of the last two days in transit.  On Thursday afternoon, I stepped onto a massive people-transporting machine.  This thing was somehow able to not only comfortably hold more than 300 other people and their 300 pounds each of luggage, but also to lift everybody and their stuff 35,000 feet into the sky with no cables, and to achieve 0.8x Mach, and to maintain these and other baffling altitudes and velocities for nearly 13 hours straight.  I am not making this up.  More remarkably still, after ~13 hours and 8,600 miles of bench-pressing gravity, this people and luggage-moving miracle was to pop out some tires and land everybody and everything safely on the ground in Dubai.  

At least, that was the plan.  ( As a disclaimer, I'm a pretty seasoned flyer.  But this was to be my first overseas voyage so of course it was a little different . . . )

I knew we'd be flying into the future, but I did not know the exact vector when I stepped onto the plane.  So I'm sure you can understand that given everything I knew about this mass conveyance and time-travelling procedure, I was slightly alarmed to learn that the machine from which we already expected so many miracles would be going over the North Pole.  Yes, the North Pole where, when you go there, there is nowhere to go but South.

Of course, they waited until I and my 300 fellow passengers were buckled in "safely" 32,000 feet above solid land to tell us.  Of course they waited until we'd been coddled with a hot towel and cold drink by stewardesses with too much makeup.  Of course, they told us without "telling" us; the forecasted route map was cleverly one screen among a plethora of touch-screen entertainment options:  movies, podcasts, games.  And only part of the forecasted route is shown at a time.  But a diligent traveler can keep an eye on the map the whole time.

The last time I visited him, my brother showed me something he'd found at a thrift store: one of those old fashioned globes that stands very tall, the kind that allows us as humans to understand how our world is round when it can, at least from ground level, appear flat.  I told him about my upcoming trip to India (knowing of the stop in Dubai), and we mused on possible routes.  We even remarked that going over the North Pole seemed like the shortest route.

"But I don't think they fly airplanes over the North Pole," I laughed, as the idea seemed absurd to me at the time.  "Ice is way too dangerous for airplanes."

(To be continued . . . )


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