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Planes are someplace to have an alternate life

March 08, 2001

Planes are someplace to have an alternate life

I'm starting to love airplanes and airports ... but not for the usual reasons. I know I'm supposed to love them for how quickly they get me from place "A" to place "B," but that's almost an afterthought. Instead, planes are someplace to have an alternate life. I think of them as fleets of communes or retreat homes.

And airports ... well, most people seem to hate them, but as a news junkie, I love them.

When choosing where to sit while waiting for your plane, look for the person reading a stack of papers. Sit two or three seats away. As the person finishes, he or she will inevitably look around while deciding whether to throw it away or be a litterbug and leave it there.

So solve the problem yourself. Ask, "Excuse me, but would you mind if I borrow that?" Often you'll get a smile and sometimes even a "thank you" for taking the papers.


Tip: Try not to drool or stare while waiting. Using this tactic, I was able to read copies of USA Today, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, the Phoenix newspaper ... you get the idea.

And there is an exemption for our newspaper. Buy it. Don't borrow it, or else bad karma will be sent to you from our circulation department.

On planes, I'm exposed to people and relationships I would not normally see, such as a teenager doing her Advanced Placement physics homework and discussing/analyzing the results with her bright but pushy father. Or the men who call home on their cell phones as soon as the plane lands, one crooning, "Come get me, dear, I love you!"

But what I most love is what the plane does to me - it lets my mind and body relax, because I know I don't need to wait for phone calls or e-mails and I don't need to run errands. Instead, it frees me to read and think.

I always end up having lots of thoughts on planes, and so I bring a pen and some paper to scribble them down in my infamous, legible-only-to-me handwriting. And I usually go through four books and two magazines between California and back.

And I sleep. Is there a more relaxing sound than that of a plane in the air?

I've often thought they should package that sound and sell it as white noise for home use.

You know when you get off the plane and the flight attendant says "Thank you!"?

I always say, "No, thank you."

Scott Butki covers Washington County government for The Herald-Mail. Send e-mail to him at

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