THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT


SIX MILES CLOSER TO HEAVEN

by by Mateo Mancia

I
The plane itself mocks your faith in scientific principles--not the least of which is gravity. Air travel assumes you, rational person, accept the fact that twenty-five tons of sheet metal and moving parts can fly. At five hundred miles per hour. For several hours at a time. While you are encouraged to enjoy the scenery with four thousand gallons of diesel fuel only inches from your reproductive organs. You no longer wonder why you are offered hard liquor on board.

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II
The last twenty years have seen stewardess replaced by the term flight attendant. Whatever dignity has been preserved by this change is balanced by the space-age butler uniforms they are now required to wear. Flight attendants are very important, but despite how it appears, the plane does not, in fact, operate under the power of the overweight homosexual enthusiastically waving his arms to indicate the emergency exits.
III
And in case you haven't been in a car since 1968, the flight attendants will cheerily show you how to operate a safety belt. This ensures that you will be comfortably seated as you fall through the sky to a horrifying death. As your body approaches terminal velocity and you suffer a massive heart attack, it will matter very little that you did indeed wear a clean pair of underpants. Bear in mind that this farce of security requires the pantomimed performance of not one but at least two fake-bake blondes from Wichita.
IV
Apparently air travel is safer than the nation's highways or rail system. This may be true enough, but if you fall out of a car, it won't be through thirty thousand feet of organ-crushing air; if your train collides with another train, your suitcase will not have to be retrieved from the bottom of the ocean following a fifteen-day search. Nonetheless, all of these statistics seem meaningless with your belly against your backbone as you remember like a bad song that most accidents occur during take-off and landing.
V
In the unlikely event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as floatation device. Although the bloated corpses of your fellow passengers bobbing up and down around you may be more handy.
VI
Air travel is, if nothing else, the most democratic way to die. In no other circumstance will you have the opportunity to perish en masse among the old and young, the rich and middle-class, white and the non-Arab minority alike. And, in a true moment of jet-setting post-modernity, the last thing you may ever see is your own vomit on a copy of Sky Mall®.
VII
Six miles is higher than birds fly, higher than clouds drift, and of all creatures that have ever lived, it's you who have seen the earth at this height, when you, a wingless naked primate, have no business being more than a bough's height from dry land.
VIII
At an altitude of six miles, your view through double-plated glass reveals the fallacy of flatness that confounded the ancients. The curvature of the earth bends pools of light along the bow of the horizon. This would be beautiful if it did not reduce the whole of human civilization to false fires burning in an irregular grid amid mountains and lakes larger than you could possibly have imagined from below. From here, humanity disappears and with it any meaning you imagine your life might have. You now understand what makes God laugh.