I get up at 4:10 am, the latest possible time I can rise and get dressed, make a cup of coffee, brush my teeth, warm the frost off the car, and still make it to the airport 45 minutes before my 6 o’clock flight.
The plane is almost empty. I sit alone on row 12, over the wing. Something about soaring west, away from the sunrise yet still into the light, away from freezing cold into a temperate environ — makes getting up that early all worthwhile.
We reach cruising altitude. On the tray table in front of me are:
- pens and doodling journal
- writing notebook
- cell phone on airplane mode
- coffee and cream in a styrofoam cup
- plastic glass with tomato juice and ice
Plane acoustics are like large restaurant acoustics. A din — combination of the pressurized cabin air, the murmur of men talking a few rows back, the jets. It is perfect white noise.
I dread trips that contain any of the following: multiple stops, change of planes, crowded coach seats, more than two hours. But a hop in a near-empty plane from Albuquerque to Phoenix is perfect.
Even the stale plane smell is absent. Even the bumps are forgiven. Airline attendants are just the right amount of attentive when the passenger load is light. Everyone leaves everyone else alone.
The moon is still out as we bank over the sprawling city. I see it hanging just above the tip of the wing.
I am self-sufficient. I have everything I need in my leather case and rollaway bag. The plane empties quickly. Walking through the airport, I am still protected in my bubble. Strangers traveling don’t make eye contact.
In the three hours since leaving my home and driving my rental car to the exit booth, I have said only five words:
“Coffee, four creams”
Certain plane rides are so ordinary, they are special.