New York to Paris: A Short Story From an Airplane

November 19, 2015 ~ Demetra Szatkowski
sunrise from the airplane

sunrise from the airplane

Two true things.

I tried to board my plane. New York to Paris. My boarding pass didn’t work because I had skipped my first flight (Philly to NY, long story) and so I had a big moment of panic when I realized they had canceled all my other flights and I thought I wouldn’t be able to get on the plane.

Jumpstart: anxiety.

All of my senses were heightened when I finally made my way onto the plane. I caught sight of two boys with beards and strange haircuts and religious-looking hats.

And I won’t lie to you; I totally panicked. I noticed every deep-seated racist leaning white privilege grows up with as my mind started forming scenarios without my control. ISIS just said they wanted to target New York. I’m going from New York to Paris. Security barely looked at me and these boys could have snuck through and what if they blow the plane up.

Blowing a plane up from target to target suddenly seemed like the perfect terrorist plan to me. I started picturing the plane exploding in the sky. Boys shouting to God before crashing us into oblivion.

In my head, I ran through my life and the people I love and my eyes teared up. Rationally I knew I was being ridiculous but without the ability to really stop it I grabbed my headphones in hopes the music would calm me down. But I hadn’t remembered to make most of it available offline, and the brand new headphones I had just purchased in the airport only worked in one ear.

And I thought, I’m scared and all by myself and everything just feels wrong.

But then (and this is the second thing, that was all just the first), then the plane started moving and we took off and the plane filled with French words I blissfully could not understand. And the lights got brighter and attendants came around and I was handed headphones (!) and a menu. And I smiled as I read that France sells shiitake mushrooms on their planes. And I turned on the TV in front of me and found the music menu and pressed “rock.” And I briefly wondered if I would hear French rock or American and then laughed when it was, in fact, in French.

I was reminded of the time on another plane when I was seated next to a boy from Norway and I asked him if he listened to his music or American music. “Do you have Norwegian music?” I asked, actually unsure.

He started laughing and said yes, they have Norwegian music, but he listens to both, and it hit me what a self-centered worldview most Americans tend to have.

The French flight attendant came around then and asked what I wanted to eat. “For free?” I said, not understanding.

“Yes,” he said, gesturing to the cart, “Everything is free.”

And he served me chicken and mushrooms and rice and salad and a roll with cheese and butter and applesauce and a brownie and sparkling water and I sat with my tray and I was once again that wide-eyed innocent child, in awe of how big and unknowable the world is.

Not afraid. Not afraid anymore.

And just then an American song came on my French radio and the woman sang “oh life, oh life, do-do-do-do-doo, oh life,” and I smiled again.

Oh, life.