My flight to Vegas this past Sunday wasn't really my first flight, although it may as well have been. The last time I was on an airplane (thirty years ago), I was about three years old - long enough ago that my only memories are three images: looking out the window at the wing of the plane, my dad pointing out the "Fasten Seat Belts" sign, and my grandmother sitting in the center bank of seats (the section with no window seats).
In order to tell the story of my "first" flight, I first need to "set the stage." First, I am very acrophobic (heights scare the everlovin' bejeezus out of me). Even an 11th story balcony is enough to make me dizzy. Second, other than the three images discussed above, my entire understanding of the look and feel of commercial airliners is informed by movies and television. Third, I am a total geek, with a basic knowledge of aeronautics. All three of these facts are important to this tale.
Boarding the plane, I was immediately struck by how different it was from the images in my head. The plane we rode was an Airbus A320 (thanks to Noel for ID-ing it). Apparently, all of my images were of something more along the lines of a Boeing 757. There was no center section (like where Grandma sat all those years ago), and first class was so non-posh that I didn't even realize that I was walking through it at first. The first class cabin featured a dozen somewhat larger seats, separated from the rest of us by what appeared to be cubicle walls and a shower curtain.
Good thing I didn't pay for first class.
The regular seats were nice enough - there was enough legroom that I wasn't cramped, although a little more elbow room would have been nice. Anybody who's ever ridden public buses knows what this plane felt like.
I started off in the "middle" seat, with my wife in the window seat (acrophobic, remember?) and another passenger in the aisle seat (more on her later). Partway through the flight, I moved to the window seat when the wife went to use the facilities.
It turns out that 30,000 feet is too great of a height for acrophobia to really take hold. Maybe it's the abstraction of large numbers, or maybe it's the fact that my view was mostly wing, but I had absolutely no problem being in the window seat for the remainder of the flight.
Now, about the lady in the aisle seat. Apparently, this was her first flight, and she was terrified. She had taken a Xanax before boarding, so she was already a little loopy when we met her. By the time we took off, she was barely able to open her eyes, much less focus on who she was speaking to. When drinks service came by, she ordered Vodka and Cranberry juice (yeah, that's what I thought, too). Of course, this drink was spilled, in accordance with the universal laws of Comedy.
Needless to say, The Wife and I were quite entertained on this flight.
Landing was, interestingly, the most fun part of the entire flight. True geek that I am, I was watching the wing the whole time. I could see water vapor passing over the wing (outlining the airfoil), and I got to watch as the flaps were deployed (I took pictures, which The Wife is still making fun of me for). The approach is so fast that we were on the ground before the acrophobia could kick in.
Remember that bit about the landing being so fast that acrophobia doesn't have a chance to kick in? Not so much on takeoff...