Trajectories of Death

Just call the iPad the gift that keeps on giving…for a price. My latest little obsession is Angry Birds, a deceptively simple game that features a slingshot and birds on one side, and evil green pigs on the other. I played this game for the entire first leg of my flights to Arkansas, where I am now, baking cookies for the holidays with my mother. (Keep your jokes to yourselves.) It all becomes about aspect and pitch and when to time that explosion, as my brain decided, delirious with giddiness at the comical nature of the app. But the game was fortunate because I’m sure I avoided a painful conversation with the man in the middle seat, who had a terrible case of halitosis. Life Note #29: Always travel with mints, not always for oneself.

The second leg of my trip featured no birds bombing with eggs. I sat next to Robert Earl, a retiree from Boeing and former Navy pilot whose father was one of the first commercial pilots in the US, there for the forming of United Airlines. No one is more critical of the current state of the airlines than Mr. Earl, even if I’ve blogged about my difficulties ad nauseum on this site. When I found out my new friend was 80 years old, I started peppering him with questions about life, change, and everything. Here are a few of our conversant bits:

A man has nothing once he starts lying. I trust the same goes for women, but he was speaking about integrity here.

We can disagree, but don’t you condescend to me. He was speaking of others; no, I didn’t piss him off.

Airlines would put seats in the aisles if they thought they could get away with it or no have to worry about how people got into their seats. Well, that explains why the aisles are getting so narrow.

Never retire early, and make sure you’ll still have a purpose after you retire, because it’s only fun for a couple of weeks.

Few things are as fun as finding a good deal on something. But this economy of consumerism is bunk.

You should love where you live. If only you knew, buddy.

We all get everything we want. If we didn’t get something, it’s because we didn’t want it enough. Well, I’m not sure I agree with this, given my bleeding heart liberal sensibilities, but I can appreciate that many things worth achieving are difficult to obtain.

I’m glad we had the chance to talk. One of the most fascinating parts of the conversation was when I asked him about how one lands on an air carrier. For landings on earth, pilots kill their lift and nearly stall the engines just above the ground so they can slow down and stop by the end of the runway. For landings on a carrier, pilots push down until they smack into the ship—this reminds me a little bit of its opposite in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which Arthur Dent learns to fly by throwing himself at the ground and missing. Hey, Navy, whatever works.


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