In a Manhattan Minute: Runway Edition

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When we last left off, the passengers of Allegiant Flight 411 were sitting on their airplane thinking they were about to take off. Little did they know that they wouldn’t be leaving for another 5 hours.

TV intro shtick aside, after waiting 7 hours for our flight, we thought we’d have to wait another hour in the queue until we could take off. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans, and when it came our turn for takeoff, we were still sitting there in the same spot with rain pounding on the windows, lighting flashing every 10 seconds and sonic booms shaking the plane. Almost 3 hours sitting on the plane meant we had to return to the gate to refuel, then wait for the weather to clear up, then wait for the all clear to re-board, then actually re-board, then receive clearance to take off, still behind a handful of planes. We finally went wheels up after midnight.

I’m normally not too fussed about the airport, or flight delays. But something about needing the trip to fit into the parameters I’d set - the one day timeline - had me on edge. Even during takeoff, I almost didn’t believe we were really leaving. I stewed as we climbed. I plugged in my earbuds and closed my eyes as we leveled off at altitude.

And then for some reason my eyes snapped open again. I leaned over my arm rest and gasped. Audibly.

Though it was by this time 1am, instead of the dark sky I assumed I’d see, the world around me was a rich blue gray. A perfectly round glowing orb floated just out of reach, bathing the wing in moonlight. The longer I gazed, the more stars materialized until the sky appeared speckled.

We flew over a fluffy blanket of clouds, adding to the coziness of the picturesque scene. Every break in the clouds allowed a glance below at the city lights, the oranges and yellows delightfully contrasting with the blue sky.

Most amazingly of all was the heat lightning. The first bolt glided effortlessly across the horizon, lighting up the seemingly-dusk sky. Here again, my understanding of timing and weather failed me as each flash created its own “sunrise,” painting the horizon a pale pink and yellow.

As I pressed my nose harder to the glass, I realized that as close to the window as I was, I could still see my own reflection. And in one out-of-body moment I was suddenly transported to a flight 12 years prior when I’d marveled at my first miraculous in-flight sunrise while we flew into Paris. I can still see hue for hue exactly what it looks like. Thinking of Paris, of how I’d illustrate the scene before me, of how much I missed writing made me think of DadDad. Of his comment on my first blog post on my first unsupervised trip overseas (again to Paris): “I'm going to love this adventure. Your photography has changed since your first adventure to Paris. But your sense of awe and joy remain. Enjoy! Stay between the ditches!”

And in that one moment of reflection, both visual and internal, I was suddenly reminded not only of the necessity, but of the joy of seeing the world with unhurried eyes. Had we not been delayed for over half a day, I wouldn’t have been able to observe so many facets of human behavior. Did we not have to wait out the thunderstorm, I wouldn’t have spent the flight mesmerized by this painterly night sky. Had I merely glanced out the window and not examined the scene soaking up every last color, I would’ve missed this whole epiphany.

Perhaps the day hadn’t gone how I’d originally planned. But it was “good enough for government work.”