Leaving on a jet plane

When I was a kid, we lived on the outskirts of a small town. It was the kind of town that you better not blink when you were driving through, or you would miss it. I would describe it as a “one-traffic light town,” but it’s still waiting for that first traffic light. To get to my house, you drove through town and up a small hill and then made a right turn at the appropriately titled Hill Store. You continued past a small development, where most of my friends lived, a series of farms, most of them Amish, and chicken hatcheries, and made two more turns and you’d get to my parent’s house. 

Come fly with me.

The good thing about the wide open space and rolling hills is that when it was dark out, there were few lights from the town and you could look up into the nighttime sky and see as far as the eye could see. I would complain about having to take out the trash or whatever chore sent me outside, but I would be in awe of the stars.

There would be more stars than I could count. I would look first for the Big and Little Dipper. I’d look for other constellations like Pegasus and Virgo, but I didn’t know them as well. The stars held my attention for a long time, but I would inevitably start looking for the blinking lights of jets racing across the nighttime sky. It wouldn’t take long.

Fly like an eagle

I would imagine being on one of those commercial jets and taking a red-eye flight to anywhere, fun, and exciting. I imagined flying to California or Florida. I’d travel to Los Angelas to see my favorite baseball team at the time, the Pittsburgh Pirates, play the Los Angelas Dodgers or travel to Key West in Florida. I imagined flying for business to London or Paris. I imagined being someone of importance and brokering huge deals.

Oh sure, the planes I saw at night could have been cargo flights, but the thought never entered my mind. I was focused completely on how I might make something of my life. In reality, FedEx, the world’s largest cargo airline, has a cargo fleet size of 684 aircraft, and UPS has a fleet of 290 aircraft, with a large percent of the aircraft flying at night.

Free Bird

The years have passed. I still love listening to Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me to the Moon” or the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing “Aeroplane” and I still love to travel for pleasure. However, the bud for work travel has long fallen off the bloom.

I traveled a few weeks ago for work. It was nothing like I imagined as a kid.

I worried nonstop about being late to the airport and taking forever to get through airport security and then when I was at my gate, I was annoyed about being early and having to wait for the plane departure. When we finally boarded the plane, I walked jealously past the first-class passengers and their plush leather seats and then later cringed at being smashed together with the other economy passengers like sardines. 

I was anxious and grumpy the whole trip. My work travel looked nothing like the travel I imagined in my mind long ago looking up in the sky. In fact, I’m wondering what ever happened to that little kid who used to look up at the stars?

36 thoughts on “Leaving on a jet plane

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  1. When I was a child, flying was more glorious and pleasant. I loved flying back then. Now I fly internationally at least once a year and I feel like I’m in a torture chamber. I also was lucky to have seen a very black sky full with stars from a house my parents had in the country, no electricity for miles …

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    1. Yes, flying has always been something mysterious to me, but it definitely feels like it’s changed. Less glorious, fewer amenities (like space.) I still love to look up in the sky. More light, but it’s still fun to see what stars I can find. Thanks for reading!

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  2. It’s a challenge to find dark these days but so profoundly satisfying when you can gaze up at the sky and contemplate the universe. Flying isn’t the same is it? I’ve flown Air Force cargo jets, large commercial planes with that infamous *middle row of seats* and the typical sardine cans where you get to know people REALLY well. Other than the need to wear earplugs, I would almost take the cargo flights over all else. At least they provided for interesting stories.

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    1. Yes, I still love a starry night. When I travel back to visit family where I grew up, i still see the stars, but yes, it’s tougher. And you’re so right about flying nowadays. I’m just glad that I didn’t have to fly anywhere over the holidays, I might have been stuck in some airport!

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  3. I know exactly what you mean and feel walking by the first-class passengers, only to be squeezed into a tiny seat in the back of the aircraft. Flying isn’t as enjoyable as it was decades ago. Small-town America is a wonderful thing.

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      1. Oh, I’m whining a bit John! Ha, ha, I’m actually very appreciative that we were able to fly in December. It really could be worse. I remember as a kid not having the $$$ to even think about it! Or, we could have been one of the cancelled flights. I feel bad for those folks. Thanks for reading!!!!

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  4. Your imagery is so fun, Brian! You grabbed me with this “I would describe it as a “one-traffic light town, but it’s still waiting for that first traffic light.” And I read raptly the rest of the way through. Not to mention you hit on the wonder of youth, and how reality is sometimes very different – or at the least, it changes as we age. Thank you for sharing another post that was fun to read, as well as thought-provoking!

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    1. Yes, I’m waiting for a few of my friends that I grew up with to see that line and give me a hard time. Ha, ha, but it’s true. It was more of a village than a city of town. We had one little grocery outlet, but for the most part we drove 20-30 minutes to get what we needed. Thanks so much for reading and for the feedback Kendra!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t been on a flight in years, but I thought the actual flights were pretty neat and wasn’t afraid of flying. I was never a fan of the airport congestion…or the congestion that would occur in me when flying. Always seemed to have a sinus infection. It is a challenge to find dark skies where I live…which reminds me you noted you lived in PA. I’m in Chester County, and while the immediate area doesn’t provide much darkness, driving west into Lancaster County there is a good stretch where it’s just you and the skies. If I were to fly these days, it would have to be first-class…and I’d be looking at the skies out my window for sure.

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    1. I grew up in Central PA and now I’m not far from you, just over the line in Berks County. I guess it really is a small world. When we flew in Dec, the Philly Airport was crazy. Now I’ve never flown a ton and actually am a little kid in the air, fascinated with flying, the airport and getting to our seats, was crazy! And yes, fun to go to Lancaster and see the wide open farms, reminds me of growing up.

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  6. This is so beautifully written, Brian!! And I think you just highlighted what is so different about the kids brain full of imagining and learning and the adult brain full of getting things done. While we have to be adults most of the time, it’s great to write — and imagine ourselves back to that kid brain, isn’t it?

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  7. I love the song “Fly Me to the Moon.” It’s one of my favorites. We lived in a one-stop light town, but it was there. It still has a small town feel to it, but the magic is gone with all the population from Seattle moving onto surrounding hillsides and farms being developed. Your story made me remember those days looking up into the sky at the stars.

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    1. I’m glad that I was able to get a degree and move away from my small town, but there are certain things I still miss: starry nights, lightening bugs, beautiful mountains (more like hills compared to elsewhere). I’m grateful for the start my small town gave me!

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  8. I grew up in a small small town with a one stop light in the Catskills “Borsht Belt.” I longed to leave never realizing so many years later, I would want to revisit and if I won the lottery buy a hunting lodge with 10 acres in the middle of nowhere. Travelling in a camper or slow boat or train sounds lovely as travelling by plane has become hectic.

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  9. Love the description of your home town Brian! I grew up in a small town in northwest Iowa but we had 1 stoplight (I was so enamored with our stoplight, I named my blog after it). Now my little town boasts 4 traffic lights and has almost tripled in size. Small town Americana-doesn’t get any better than that. Great post…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s funny you mentioned four lights. I wrote that line and to make I hadn’t missed a new light, I actually checked with a friend who still lives there. Loved growing up there, just would be hard to have a career now. Love small town America. Thanks for reading Neese!


  10. As kids, we often see the world with different eyes. I once read someone wrote that her daughter, after growing up, said her favorite days were when they ate mac n cheese for dinner and watched movies together in their pajamas. The mother thought to herself “those were the days I felt like I was failing”.

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