My Birthday Lesson

One year ago tonight – on the eve of my 28th birthday – I had some plane trouble. The type of plane trouble that might require the fire and rescue squad. As you can image, I was incredibly grateful to get off the plane and celebrate my 28th birthday the next day, and as I frequently do after “interesting” situations, I wrote about it.

Well, tonight – on the eve of my 29th birthday – I want to share what I wrote last year. And as I share, I want to point out how grateful I am for the 12+ safe flights I’ve had since I wrote this. It seems I can’t keep my feet on the ground, so I’ll send a big thank you to all those pilots who have brought those feet of mine safely back to Earth – just in time for my 29th birthday tomorrow.

June 29, 2010

Flying Lessons

Flying lessons for my 25th birthday

Today is my 28th birthday, and as I grow older, I have begun to question different things in life. For instance, should human beings fly? Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to wake up in my Maryland home and go to sleep that same day in Madrid, Spain. And my flying lessons on my 25th birthday? Simply fantastic! But today, three years after my flying lessons, I’ve decided it might be wise to have some respect and fear for those metal birds in the sky.

I have come to this opinion over the course of several years and several flying adventures, and I’ll share just a few of the highlights with you now. First, there was the landing in Chicago a few years ago. The wind was so bad that we circled for almost an hour before trying to land, and as we did make our landing, the pilot said, “Hold on, folks, this is going to get bumpy.” Sure enough, we bounced a few times on the landing strip, overhead bins popped open and carry-on bags fell everywhere as the plane finally came to a stop.

Then there was my flight to Florida last June when we were struck by lightning. The little girl in the seat across from me (the one who cried the entire trip) actually said, “Yay, this is fun” and giggled nonstop as we maneuvered through the storm. That was not fun; that was scary. I was contemplating finding an apartment and moving to Florida so I didn’t have to get back on the plane.

However, perhaps nothing demonstrates the perils of flying quite as much as my flight last night. I left California at 11am (2pm east coast time); we made an emergency stop in Omaha, Nebraska, for gas – can anyone say poor planning? And then we landed in Chicago at 5:40pm (6:40pm east coast time) to catch a connecting flight an hour later. I was traveling with three of my co-workers, and we were all very ready to be home after nearly a week on the road. As the plane began to make it’s descent, I felt the butterflies of excitement – we were almost home! And then the plane shifted direction; could it be that we were climbing back into the sky?

As we sat circling in the air and wondering what was going on, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom system, “Hello, folks, sorry for the inconvenience. We’ve got a problem with the flaps on our landing gear. We’re going to fly around and see if we can work it out in the next 10 minutes. While we do so, please review the emergency instructions in your seat back pocket. We have alerted fire and rescue to be on the scene. This is just a precaution.” How much of a precaution? Are we talking 99.9% sure we are okay? It was 10:15pm, and in less than two hours I would turn 28. I wanted to make it to my birthday!

The next ten minutes felt like an eternity, and as we finally began our descent, my co-worker saw one of the flight attendants place herself at the emergency exit. There’s a good omen. The flight got closer to the ground; I held my breath and watched as the fire and rescue squad came closer into view. All along the runway emergency medical crews were stationed with flashing red lights – waiting for our arrival and what might happen when we did arrive.

The plane touched down and our speed stayed strong, hurtling us along the landing strip at a frightening pace. But just when I thought we wouldn’t slow down, the images outside my window became less of a blur, the inertia pushing me into the seat lessened, and the pilot’s voice said, “Welcome to Baltimore!” We gave him a round of applause for getting us down safely.

So on this, my 28th birthday, I am celebrating another year of my life. I am celebrating wonderful friends and family who sent me birthday messages via Facebook, phone, and in person. And I am celebrating the fact that the fire and rescue squad was not needed on the BWI tarmac last night. Maybe the human race should keep flying, but maybe Megan will keep her feet planted firmly on the ground for a while now.

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