This story about airplanes begins years ago, probably in the early 1950s. Flying was not something ordinary people did in those days. John’s family usually drove from New York to Tennessee to see his aunt for Easter. For some reason, maybe time pressure, they decided to fly for the first time. John was a know-almost-everything preteen at the time. They took off in the rain and were soon at cruising altitude, with water still streaming down the small windows. John’s dad had a window seat, and John was next to him. The stewardess handed out lunch trays, which had cold meals covered with plastic wrap.
John’s dad said to him quietly, “Don’t tell anyone, but the plane is leaking.”
He replied, “The plane can’t leak, Dad.”
“It is leaking. There is cold water running down my leg.
“There is no way this plane is leaking. The cabin is pressurized.”
I don’t know how long this went on, but they finally found the leak. There was condensation on the plastic wrap over the lunch, and when Dad laid it back, the drops ran down his leg. Obviously, for me to know the story, it became part of family lore and was trotted out frequently. All you had to say was, “The plane is leaking,” and everyone laughed.
Fast forward to 2016 when Lise and her English friend Chris were traveling. One of their connecting flights had a tiny airplane. Chris took one look at it, called it a daft plane, and wondered if it could fly. There were propellers instead of jets. Lise reassured him that it could indeed fly. Using her hands to demonstrate, she said because of the placement of the engines, it might go through the air at an angle like this. Not only that, she said, “The seats are two and one, so it will probably list to the heavier side and move through the sky lopsided.” You can count on Lise to be sarcastically comforting. From the telling of the story, it was hard to tell how serious Chris’ reservations about the aircraft were. I’m sure both sides were hyped by the time I heard it. In any case, our family now frequently refers to daft airplanes. Thank you, Chris.
Nathaniel (16) flew here for Christmas from a small airport on Long Island. He said, “I had a suspicion that something was not quite right when we walked out of the terminal on the ground floor instead of a normal gate. Are they serious? Will this tiny plane get us to Philadelphia? The side of the plane opened downward, and that’s where the stairs were. There were propellers on the thing! The 24 seats were two on one side and one on the other. What on earth am I doing here? Why did Aunt Lise and GP (Grandpa) book me on this thing? Guess I’d better sit down and buckle up. Oh my goodness! I’m in the back seat, and look at the people ahead of me, bouncing up and down! They look like people in old movies riding in a rickety bus. I should have taken a video of that.”
Once Nathaniel related his story, we shared Chris’ tale with him. He was pretty sure he’d get another daft plane on the way back home. John and I drove him to Charlotte for the return flight. We stood watching him go through security until he walked toward the gate and disappeared from our sight. As we drove along, I kept texting Nathaniel so that he’d know we were ready to turn around if there were any problem. Wait! I can tell the story in his exact words
N: Try to take a nap so you will be refreshed.
Me: Not until you are in the air. I’m the communication link, you know. We’re with you, just not next to you.
N: Yes, I understand.
Me: Does anyone ever overstand?
N: Depends on your height.
A couple of hours later I wrote, “We just got home.”
Everything went well on the large plane, and before long he texted that he had landed in Philadelphia.
We pick up the narrative again there.
Me: GP says the layover is not too long.
N: Yeah, luckily I’m at my gate.
Me: Is the flight on time?
N: Yes. Watching the daft plane pull in now. I just texted Aunt Lise a picture of it.
The story was paused while Nathaniel boarded the little plane. His next message was in all caps.
OMG. THE PLANE IS ACTUALLY LEAKING!!
N: They’re using napkins to stop it. We’re stuck here until they fix it. Tell Grandpa if it’s here, it can obviously fly (sarcasm).
The next message from Nathaniel was short and to the point: “I am home.”
Nathaniel had survived a week with us and two flights on a daft airplane.