Rendered Fat Content


"I believe that the human soul moves at about the speed of a walking horse."

Airplanes seem the most brutish invention of man, engineering raised to the level of degradation. Just the thought of leaving the familial bonds of earth to "float" (flout, more like it) into the clouds, smacks of a most grievous violation of the human contract. It veers us out of our lane, into the space intended for the birds. Jousting with the wind. Collective pretending that we are not miles above the ground, blindly zooming through unpredictable turbulence and worse, proceeding into turbulence we know damned well lurks there. I try to distract myself through the worse of it, that being the brief period between wheels up and wheels back down again, but the chop renders my book unreadable. I try to swallow my complicit arrogance, and fail again, for I am inescapably a part of the problem.

I know, modern society could not survive without cheap air travel, which might just be the strongest argument against buying into the plot.
I buy the ticket anyway, imagining the time I'll save, but what will I do with all the time I save? The Muse and I left the house at four, rode the light rail and airport train for an hour and fifteen, walked the better part of a mile through milling throngs to learn that I'd arrived an hour too early to check my bag. The helpful clerk checked my bag as one of The Muse's, so we proceeded to hike a second country mile to wander through the security wilderness. We had inexplicably not been TSA Pre-checked, though we couldn't remember ever abusing the privilege before when it had been extended to us. This meant that we'd have to half disrobe while trying to maintain the line flow, a nearly impossible expectation.

They'd changed the protocol since the last time I went through the full monty security screening, by which I mean that I entered their sacred chamber with belt still on and pockets brimming with contraband. The guard looked disappointed in me as he insisted that I empty all my pockets while he patted me down. I'm not usually averse to a decent pat-down, but Jim, he introduced himself twice after another guard directing me toward him first introduced him by name, wasn't really my type. Finally through that scrutiny, I waddled to a seating area to dress myself again. I swear that this ritual perfectly mirrors the arrogance of the upcoming flight, a needless intrusion into the serenity of life.

With a little more than three hours then before my scheduled departure, I saw The Muse off at her gate before ambling through more milling throngs to find my flight's gate. I seriously considered wandering homeward then, hopping the return train, fetching the car, and creeping up my usual backside two-lane into our foothills lair. The weather app showed clear air between here and there, and figuring that I might have stumbled into the one in a billion chance of a smooth flight out of Denver, I reluctantly talked myself into staying. I boarded a hundred and forty fourth in the sequence, surprised to find an empty exit row aisle. I stowed my stuff with only the slightest scolding from the flight attendant, swore allegiance to the exit row responsibilities, and settled into a seat designed more for show than serious comfort.

We took off in the dark into the smooth air I'd anticipated. Over Wyoming, though, we entered definite chop, probably caused by fleeing conservative greenhouse gasses. The chop continued for the best part of an hour, my novel jiggling uselessly in my hands. I made myself invisible then, closing my eyes to repeat a largely ineffective mantra, inventorying my more glaring shortcomings. I only get halfway through sincere contrition before the air settled down and flight attendants swarm to collect drink orders. The absurdity cannot escape my gaze. We're five full miles above Boise on a late winter night lit only by a waning gibbous moon, and people want beverages. I brought my own water bottle and decline the invitation, finally finding my novel again. I'm semi-transported back to 1919 Vienna, following a haggard, war-wounded detective around through sewers searching for smugglers. I almost lose awareness that I'm suspended in something thinner than history, seeking the sort of satisfaction only distraction can ever bring.

Our modern society seems ninety percent distraction. I paid my fare and entered that dominant state where only a decent distraction preserves my sanity. To focus upon the primary experience might mean forfeiting my sanity, so I distract myself, like you distract yourself, from the utter senselessness of the scene. My flight arrived twenty minutes early. How much time did I save in total? I'd accomplished more than covering a cool thousand air miles, but mustered an out of body experience which, contrary to the touted benefits, saved me nothing. Through pure guile, I'd managed to preserve what seemed like my sanity through the worst of it. I prayed my way most of the rest of the way to Heaven along the way. I might have qualified as the most surprised as I engaged in the perfectly mundane deplaning ritual again. Another anonymously milling throng making our way down the jetway and back out into what passes for our real world.

I believe that the human soul moves at about the speed of a walking horse. The flight from DEN to PDX might take two hours and twenty five, but that walking horse hasn't made it halfway to Ft Collins by then. I leave the airport absent a soul, a seemingly small deduction in a distraction economy. I will wander for twelve days as my soul makes its way into Wyoming, hardly making Rollins before I will board a return flight, lapping my weary soul well East of Evanston on my way back home. My soul will then dutifully turn around to begin plodding back toward the Front Range Foothills, where we'll be reunited sometime in late April or early May. In the mean time, I can take all the time I've saved and cower soulless, having feigned touching the face of some engineered God as soulless as I will most certainly be then.

I swear, airplanes seem the most brutish invention of man. I still fly.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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