It’s Really More Like Five
The ability to monitor and track airplanes online (or even in the sky while flying) delights a travel nerd like me and the technology ranks above the trip odometer, but just below the wheeling suitcase. When I was young, my mother would call the airline to find out if my father’s flight would arrive on time before we would load into the station wagon to go meet him at the tiny, one-building Sky Harbor airport (see Forty Years On An Airplane from July 2013). Now I track the flight from takeoff to landing, watching a small airplane icon inch across the computer-generated map of the United States.
Included in the online flight data, the speed and altitude clue me in as to when the pilot has begun his initial descent into the destination. Even at cruising speeds of five hundred miles per hour, the icon slowly clicks across the map, but for anyone who has ever looked out the airline window to see another plane zipping in the opposite direction, that flying marvel streaks through the air in a matter of seconds. Most planes cruise at altitudes of 30,000 feet, which aviators will adjust to avoid turbulents, but for the most part, that is too high a number for me to calculate how high I may be flying. If I look out the window, I cannot see individual cars, so I would estimate I am flying at a precise altitude of “pretty high up.” But after applying some simple math [yes, I admit, I used math] thirty thousand feet is more than five miles in the air. Go figure.
A Different Kind Of Club
For years, maybe decades, I imagined my pilgrimage to Cooperstown, New York. I wanted to see Stan Musial’s uniform, Roger Maris’ bat, and every single morsel of baseball history, because I am that kind of a nerd also. When the day of the expedition arrives, I wake early in the morning with the worst case of food poisoning I have ever experienced. Cancel? No! In addition to the memorabilia of the Hall of Fame (see Halls of Fame from January 2021), I possess tickets to attend the annual film festival highlighted by Billy Crystal’s 61*, with the director on hand. How often does a person get to screen a movie with its director, much less this director? Needless to say, when I finally sit down on the plane, not in my usual exit row seat, but near the back of the plane, I check the seat back pocket for the folded air-sickness bag.
And somewhere over the Carolinas, and thankfully after the captain turns off the seat belt signs, I stumble to the microscopically small space where I finally purge myself of the last remnants of the foul leftovers. Yes, I become one of those people who gets sick on an airplane. I now comprehend first hand that given the number of airline passengers who board planes every year, statistically someone is going to be sick, and this time, I hold the honor. I join a very different airline distinction, and not one of which I am particularly boastful, but I can at least take comfort in the fact that my stomach ailment bought my entrance to the Five-Mile-High Club. While not as noteworthy as admission to the Hall of Fame, at least I finally make the pilgrimage.