When I was 11 my parents put me on a plane to go visit my Godfather Basu in Oakland, California. It was my first time to travel on my own.
That was during a time when you got dressed up, and part of your holiday was the flight.
The thought of flying on my own was so exciting I remember to this day how nervous and amazed I was at the wonder of it all.
There was a pace to the airport that intrigued me. Carts and people, conveyor belts, planes, flight announcements, luggage, everything was so mystical.
How did it all get where it was going and where was it all going, I remember thinking.
I tried to watch and absorb every detail, all the sounds, the roar of engines powering up and others coming to full stop, the interesting blend of exhaust and fuel smells, the languages of far-off lands, people who were frantic, some emotional, others just people-watching, mildly curious.
To my young mind it was the most marvelous thing I had ever witnessed.
I think I was in a trance because I don’t remember saying goodbye to my parents and brother, I only remember the airports and flying. Sorry Mum and Dad.
Getting to the gate was a breeze back then. No security, just gate agents, can you even imagine? I guess they were the first line of defence back then.
When my plane arrived at the gate, it looked half angelic, half sleek sport car on steroids. It was a shiny, beautiful Boeing 727 aircraft/magic carpet.
The air crew looked crisp and important in their uniforms, and the captain shook your hand as you came onboard. I tried for all the world to look cool, but I’m pretty sure my jaw was hanging open.
I found my seat by the window and was glued. I paid attention to the flight attendants as they went through the emergency briefing, looked at the aircraft information and evacuation card and committed it to memory, buckled my belt and was ready.
The taxi was fascinating as it gave you a sort of backstage pass to the world that was happening on the other side of the gates. There was a crazy kind of coordinated flow to it all. Then the announcement came over the speakers, it was our turn for take-off.
It did not disappoint.
If John Denver was on my flight I was sure he would yell “farrr-out” just about then.
The captain hit the jets to full throttle, I was pushed into the back of my seat and two seconds later we were airborne. Flying is the closest I have ever been to being completely free in my life, then or now.
No matter how many flights I log in my life, I will never forget how much wonder I felt slicing through the rain and clouds of Portland into the sun and warmth above, feeling like I was onboard a rocket to the stars.
Even the Wright Brothers would have been incredulous.
The ground as we got closer to California and could see it, looked like a patchwork between farmlands, highways, scattered communities and eventually bigger and bigger cities.
You could look out one side of the plane and see ocean, and the other, land forever. Looking above were skies that were endless, and I remember thinking I wanted to stay there.
I watched the busy flight crew for a few minutes and knew if there was ever a job I wanted, it was here, from this office. Flying was for me, and I knew that to be a certainty.
The rest of the flight went by in a blink. The slow descent into the Bay Area, over the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, past Alcatraz Island on one side of the plane, San Francisco on the other, over the Bay Bridge, and we glided onto the ground in Oakland like it was butter.
The captain hit the reverse thrusters, we taxied and we had arrived.
I was sad it had come to an end, but somewhere inside me I knew it really hadn’t, I was hooked on flying and would find my way back again.
And I have, thousands of times.
I find it magical each and every flight, all take offs and landings, every airport I step into, every destination I go. To me, it’s a magical world all to its own. An aviation Disneyland, if you will.
I was lucky enough to be a flight attendant, and though those days are behind me now, the flying is ingrained in my DNA. I go every chance I get.
If it’s not flying, I hope you find at least once in your life something that sets you free. It’s worth looking for.
And Mum and Dad, thank you for setting me off on a path that became more than my vocation, it became a life-long love, and all from a short flight that opened my eyes to possibilities.