2010/09/05

Tales from the Fuselage

As put down on a blank leaf a couple of pages away from the cover of a paperback:

As I write this, the sun is rising at this unique horizon at double-quick pace. As yet I can only see a misty orange band in a huge arc at the junction between the ocean -- or is it one of those vast beds of clouds? -- and the sky. I'm at an altitude higher than Everest and am zipping at about Mach 1.2. It has been a most unusual 'day' -- why not lend it some more rarity by chronicling it right here?
Until last year, I was practically an airspace virgin. I had flown only twice before, aboard domestic jets. The first time, I had apparently fallen asleep at takeoff and woken up at landing. This largely had to do with the fact that I had at that time lived just as many months outside my mother as I had inside. The second instance, happening in my II Grade, has escaped me but for the memory of grabbing one too many candies from the stewardess' platter; whether my distribution of them to classmates on my birthday is a memory or a fig. of my im., I'm uncertain.
So when I air-travelled last year, I found it hard to keep my jaws together. Years back, I had taken half an excruciating day to visit Mangalore by train. Now it was below me in twenty minutes from departure; behind me in 21. From that point onwards, I entered denial. This speed was non-intuitive.
The novelty of sensations so enlivened me that sleep failed me. It was evening when I reached final destination, so my insomniac fatigue made sure that jet lag was beaten.
On my return home last month, I spanned the Pacific, thus becoming the first scion in my dynasty to have crossed all 360 longitudes. Which brings us to 'today'.
For a start, my seat number in the first flight was 30A. The 'A' stands for window seat. The port and starboard columns were two seats wide and my neighbouring passenger had given the ride a miss! Thus my spot doubled as an aisle seat. The '30' stands for first row, which in turn translates to (i) leg room, (ii) potty proximity, (iii) highest strength of pheromone trails left behind by flight attendants, (iv) special mechanisms for the TV and the dining desk.
Last year, I headed westward. This time, my 'orient'ation is opposite. I'm essentially retracing the path I took home. The first aircraft (dest.: Hong Kong) became airborne at 04.00 a.m. If you define 'dayline' as in the picture, my plane and the dayline were cruising for a headlong collision. I fought back sleep and waited to witness this rare glory, and was handsomely rewarded.
My second plane (on which my stern rests this very moment) is a time machine. I embarked upon it at 02.00 p.m. on Sep. 04, I will touch terminus at 11.00 a.m. on Sep. 04. This leg of the voyage turned out to be much more spectacular than I had imagined.
I slid the window down to cut out the sunlight and slipped into slumber. When I rose an hour later and reopened it, I was totally taken aback. It was pitch dark outside. I had simply unaccounted for the fact that in an aeroplane flying east, particularly when the geodesical trajectory is more parallel than perp. to the equator, the durations of dark and light are halved. There was no way I could go across to the other edge of the Pacific without cutting through night. It was obvious once it happened. All these meant I met the dayline a second time in the journey, which is when I began to pen this. Now the window is a splash of divers degrees of blue and white.
36 hours would this day last, two sunrises and two sundowns would it include. An I.D.L. day -- an ideal day.

1 Obiter dicta:

Anonymous AJ couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

Aah, the wonder that is sitting in a tin can and hurtling through the air at immense speeds. This might interest you too - I thought it was very creative!

http://niemann.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/03/red-eye/

9:29 AM  

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