You are trying to remember flying for your grandchildren. Trying to describe it in a way that sounds exciting. You start off with airports: the waiting areas and bad food. And security checks, removing your shoes so they can look for bombs in the soles. Old women sitting on stools and pulling off their slippers, handing them over to strangers to examine. It seems odd, now, looking back. A lot does.
But the children only want to hear about the sky. Clouds. The endless landscape of insubstantial white. They don’t say that, you do. How does it look? It looks exactly like it does in films, you say. There is only a square foot of window through which you can look — you are separated by two sheets of thick glass. You probably see more in the movies. Except that you know you’re up there.
The most impressive thing, you elaborate, is breaking through from a rainy grey afternoon into brilliant sunshine. It is always a beautiful day, you tell them, above the clouds. After half an hour ferns of frost begin to grow around the edges of the glass. You press your fingers against the window but all you feel is warm plastic.
There is a dull, constant roar too. From the engines. They don’t show that in movies for some reason. It would probably get in the way of the dialogue. Flying is loud.
Is it scary? It’s more boring than anything. Except the landing. The absolute, inevitable fact that you will have to land, one way or the other. In the minutes beforehand shunk goes the landing gear and various disquieting noises come from the wings. What does disquieting mean? It means I got scared, every time. And the ground coming up slightly quicker than expected and the moment, always, just for a second, when you were certain you were going to die.
Your grandchildren may fly once or twice in their lives, especially if they get into government services. Most likely not, though. You spend some time telling them about the tops of mountains, and the possibility of hot-air balloons. The view will be better, you say. The air will taste so much sweeter.