Monday, July 3, 2017

Overhead Overload

Carolyn J. Rose

Confession: I’m an anxious flier.

I tend to view planes—especially jumbo models—as chunks of metal that shouldn’t be able to get off the ground, let alone cross continents and oceans. I worry that the laws of lift might change in the middle of a flight.

I worry about the specific plane I’m on. How old is it? How well maintained?

I worry about the crew. How much training and experience? How much sleep did they get last night? What’s the state of their mental health? Are they easily distracted?

I worry about the airport screening process and what might have been missed. I worry about items that could be weapons—scarves and high heels and heavy objects.

I worry about my fellow passengers. Who is angry? Whose cough is spreading disease? Who will infringe on my personal space and privacy? Who will talk my ear off or try to convert me to their religion or sell me a time share in Duluth?

I worry about whether I’ll make my connection. And I worry about whether my luggage will follow me to my destination in a timely manner.

And that leads to worrying about the weight of the luggage on board. Not so much luggage stowed in the cargo area, but the bags, backpacks, briefcases, and bundles crammed into the overhead bins.

After watching passengers shift and shove and wedge what seems like massive amounts of gear, I worry that the plane will be top heavy and tilt to one side. I worry that stuff sliding in the bins will unbalance the plane during a critical move—like that turn that comes right after takeoff. You know, the maneuver where the plane seems to stand on one wing. The maneuver where the view from the window you’re seated beside is of the ground directly below.

I wonder what’s in those sacks and cases. I wonder what’s so important that passengers have to keep it close. And I worry about a society where the words “you can’t take it with you” don’t seem to mean what they did when I was young, where storage units seem to spring up like mushrooms, and where so many of us seem to travel heavy instead of traveling light.