Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Forces At Work
I know a little bit about rapid deceleration. It's what killed a friend of mine back in college, and was also to blame for my father's demise. That may be why my younger brother adopted the motto: "Avoid Impact." It is the reason that I always stop and read those articles about small planes crashing at local airports. I don't expect to know the occupants, but I know how the story goes. It's not the flying that gets you, or the driving. It's coming to rest sooner than you expected. The curious thing to me is this: I was supposed to be along for the ride when my college roommates went for a drive in the mountains of Colorado on that fine Indian Summer day. They got tired of waiting for me, and they were correct in assuming that I wasn't going to cut my evening film class. But I might have been coerced into playing hooky just that once. And then the forces of the cosmos would have shifted, and maybe my uptight kvetching about getting back home before dark or having one more beer before we hit the road might have changed the outcome. Or maybe three of us might have gone away that day. We'll never know. The airplane that took my father on his last trip was one that I had flown in a few times before, including the penultimate leg of the journey that eventually ended just a few hundred feet from a safe landing. My father had his own near-miss years earlier when he got squeezed out of a short hop with his boss in his small plane, an experience that kept him out of aircraft smaller than a 727 for a long time after that. Then something changed his attitude, and he was in the wrong place when there was a sudden deceleration. Just a day before I had been tucked in the jump seat right behind him. It was my turn to walk away from that one. I, for one, see mounting evidence of the old adage suggesting that if man were meant to fly, he'd have wings. Of course, there is no way to know when Fate will give you a Fast Pass to the front of the line. I live on top of a major fault line that is supposed to eventually make us all forget about the earthquake in Japan. I live in Oakland, where we are all just innocent bystanders. I ride a bike. But I know where my earthquake supplies are, and I wear a helmet. And I think my younger brother is onto something.