“We are about to make a precautionary landing. Pull out your emergency brochures and make sure you are familiar with our procedures. Tighten your seat belts, make sure your tray tables are locked and all of your luggage is stowed. Also, make sure there is nothing sharp out that could stab you. When we land, you’ll need to grab your legs and tuck your head between them. Let us know if you are unable to do this. You will need to leave everything behind, and when we say “Get up,” quickly head towards the nearest exit. Please take a look to make sure you know where that is. You will fold your arms over your chest when you jump down the slide and step away from the aircraft.”
Some people laughed a little, and not seemingly uncomfortable, perhaps more in disbelief. One woman was angry that we were going to try to land in fog. But this wasn’t about fog. There was a problem.
I was alone. No one sitting next to me. I looked around to make eye contact with the people around me, but they didn’t look back. I was sweating and my stomach felt that tight sensation you get when you are really late to something really important. I closed my eyes to pray — nothing. My thoughts were blank. So I looked around me at my stuff. A purse full of shit — and grabbed my iPhone, tucked it in my pocket and made sure it would stay, and then I took inventory. I had my computer and some dumb clothes, my wallet – should I grab the credit cards? No I have my ID, that’s all I’ll need. My phone and my ID. How are my clothes, will I be able to maneuver? Will that protect me? My clothes are OK. My shoes – flip flops. I don’t have anything else, it’ll have to do. When I jump down the slide, I’ll take them off so I don’t lose them.
I’m so glad my laptop with all of my writing in it isn’t with me. Does anyone know that I’m even on this plane? I think work knows. The plane started to descend and we put our hands in front of our faces, on the seat back in front of us. Dead silence and calm. And we closed our eyes and held our breath. And we touched down with ease and taxied into the gate, where not until the doors open did people start to clap or move.
Not once did I think about not being ready to die. At that moment, it really wasn’t up to me, or anyone else for that matter. Total random chance – chaos and collision. It didn’t matter what my thoughts and prayers were, or who would miss me or what I had left undone. But it did feel good to know that if it had happened, no one would cease to exist simply because I did. Nothing was depending on my survival. I mean, sure, people would be effected, but nobody needed me. But everyone on that plane needed the pilot.
It didn’t even occur to me until now. I didn’t even say thank you.
The good news is, when being tested at a moment at the end of all moments I was calm and logical and thinking about survival. I always wondered what I’d be at the end of days: a zombie or a zombie killer. Human instinct at the edge of all inhibitions must be shear survival. I took inventory of what was around me, the people. I looked around for who was going to be my survival buddy. A girl about my age one seat up and to the left.
I looked at who was going to slow me down. An elderly woman, to my left, two seats in. I could get out before she did.
I took stock of the items I had. A phone. I put it away. And then I took it back out. No babies around. I’d need my ID in case they need to identify my body.
It wasn’t even that I didn’t know what to expect with the landing. They told us exactly what to expect. A crash. So when we actually landed and it was smooth, the surprise wasn’t in the lack of turbulence, it was in being alive 5 minutes past the time you expected.
I never once thought, I should have written that book. I’m not ready. I have so much more to do. Because what was left undone wasn’t up to me. All that was up to me was what I had done before then – that random moment of no control – and it had been good. It didn’t even matter if I had been good. But that it had been good to me.