Always Take A Window Seat

Business air travel is basically a hassle. The rush to the airport.

Columns From: 1/3/1999 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Business air travel is basically a hassle. The rush to the airport. Schlepping luggage to the counter. Long concourses to trek. Standing in lines. Crowded, noisy waiting areas to endure. Jostling down the cabin aisle with carry-ons and cramming them into stuffed overhead bins. Clambering into a cramped seat. The nerve-rumbling race down the runway.

But then to see the earth drop away beneath the climbing, banking aircraft—that's still a thrill for me even after all these years. Highways turn into ribbons, then into threads. Buildings become matchboxes, then specks. Fields turn into stubbly blankets and then into postage stamps, borderless and brown. Slipping through a cover of clouds into the bright brittle blue above never fails to startle and delight me, eyes and ears popping at the same time. At night, cities below sparkle like great yellow galaxies flung down on velvet.

A seat by the window makes it worthwhile. Even the view over the wing is not without its rewards. Watching its tip bounce gently in flight or observing the slow flutter of the flaps is remarkable. It's all the more interesting to me for having seen the factories, machine tools and the skilled workers involved in manufacturing these flying marvels.

That's why I always request a window seat, no matter how routine the flight. I am sullenly disappointed when it's denied. I want to see the bigness of the earth below and the vastness of a cloudless sky above. I want to be awed and humbled by great stretches of terrain. I want to look down on hills and mountains and clouds, a perspective that a century ago poets could only imagine as the enjoyment of angels.

Whether the flight lasts an hour or half a day, the view refreshes my outlook and resets my vision of the world. If I must read or write notes during the flight, glancing out the window every few seconds seems to sharpen my focus, not distract it.

Life is not full of choices. In most matters, the options are few or nil. Many things happen because they happen, not because conscious and deliberate decisions were made. Randomness abounds.

So when the agent's inevitable question, "Window or aisle?" comes up, I won't let pass my chance to control this one slight aspect of my destiny. And if I can exploit every little, similar opportunity elsewhere along life's journey, I won't be going along just for the ride. I'll be keeping my own spirit aloft, buoyed by the natural lift of wonder and joy.

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