OVER AND OVER AND OVER – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Over


I have always loved flying.

I never went sky-diving (Garry did and I envied him … and wondered how in the world he managed to actually jump out of that plane into the air), but I did go gliding. Twice. I loved flying in small planes and I was lucky enough to have two good friends who flew and took me with them. One of them got permission to fly very close to the ground so I could fly 500 feet over my house and wave to my flowers.

I discovered that when you fly in a small airplane, no matter how hot it is on the ground, at 10,000 feet, you really wish you were wearing insulated shoes. I learned I was too short to see over the dashboard of a Cessna, so if I took up flying, I would have to do it entirely using instruments.

I got to be “co-pilot” on all these little flights and discovered my main job was to “look for airplanes.” With all the technology involved in flying, planes, especially small planes without flight plans, hit each other.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When you are looking for other planes, you have to look up, and to both sides. I couldn’t look down. I was too short but I discovered the world had more directions than I ever imagined.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

My cousin Roberta lived in northern Virginia, right outside of DC. From when I was 9 or maybe 10, I used to fly there and back. Alone. That was before they made you wear special badges or anything. You just got on the plane, sat in your seat. Up in the air and half an hour later, descending again. Seeing tiny people get bigger and bigger until they were full-sized and the plane bumped to a stop.

Watching all those cars travel at high speeds through the most astonishingly complex intersections and mostly, don’t hit each other. It’s like an enormous dance done on the roads.

When Garry and I were courting, I hadn’t yet gotten a job in Massachusetts. Most weekends, Garry drove to New York and stayed with me, but sometimes, he’d buy me a ticket. I’d fly from La Guardia to Logan. Once, I was due in at 6 pm. We took off a little late and minutes later, the plane was hit by lightning. Twice. There was only one working engine.

Nobody talked. We just listened to silence, followed by the wail of the engine as it lifted the plane. One of the passengers was a pilot, probably going home to Boston. Everyone watched him, holding our collective breaths, wondering if we were going to land or crash.

We landed. Garry picked me up and started to complain I was late and he’d had to circle the airport a dozen times waiting for my plane to show up. I pointed out that I wasn’t sure I was going to get there alive, so he should be saying “Oh glory, you’re here and alive!” and after that, he fed me lobster for three days straight. I deserved every piece of lobster, not to mention one fabulous North End Italian dinner.

Photo: Garry Armstrong –

I don’t know exactly when the fun went out of flying. When airports went from being inconvenient and ugly and became houses of torment. When airline seats went from being small to being torturous. When all the little niceties of flying disappeared and then they wonder why people try not to fly if they have any other choice.

Unfortunately, our rail infrastructure has been neither maintained nor expanded. For example, you can’t take a train from Boston to Arizona. There are many areas where the tracks are not functional. Not only can you not take the train from point A to point C, but you have to detrain with all your luggage, take a bus, get another train which may or may not have the same seats or type of seats … all while juggling your luggage. You may need to do this several times and it will take days rather than hours.

I was still willing to give it a try until I read the notice that the train would not provide assistance with transferring luggage. I gave up.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

So if you are traveling a long distance, unless you are still young enough to like driving all day — and there was a time when I thought driving was fun — you can fly or stay home. Given one thing and another, we stay home. Mostly.

It doesn’t mean we’ll never fly again. I think now that Garry can hear better, we might fly somewhere, sometime, someday. England or Australia or New Zealand or the south of France. Paris or Tokyo. Who knows?

Meanwhile, a dozen or more Chickadees have discovered our bird feeder and they fly up and over and around it.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

23 thoughts on “OVER AND OVER AND OVER – Marilyn Armstrong”

    1. Should we come up with the $$ … AND it’s someplace where the limited walking I do will make it pleasurable … I had wanted Paris for our 25th anniversary, but I realized I could do that kind of walking these days, especially not on cobblestones which I found difficult when i was a lot younger. Arizona was great though and after 10 days in Arizona, my back stopped hurting by at least 50%. I think it was the warm, dry air — and the lack of pollen.

      I’d love to go back to England one more time, and Mexico is beginning to sound downright enchanting. But plane fare has become such an issue, especially overseas. I think (hope) I could find someone with whom we could stay, but it is all the other stuff. Meals — I mean you can’t just go and stay with someone and eat all their food and mooch your whole vacation. Renting a car so we aren’t a complete burden. Everything.

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      1. I honest to God would love to have you with us (while we are still living in our beautiful house) in the Paris region. BUT it won’t happen as the access to our house is anything but easy. And there are stairs absolutely everywhere. They are fine when you are fine, if not, it’s quite a challenge. Hero Husband’s mum has been here many times but from one little incident onwards there is no thinking of going ‘anywhere’ anymore for her. My mum who was already pretty much blind by the time she and my dad were able to travel with us to our place did well but now an outing of 2.5hrs is too much for her…. But if God will and permits that we’ll live in Switzerland again for good AND we will have enough room for the two of you I’d love to treat you to anything you might want. I wd take time off and show you our beautiful country with their friendly and helpful people. I am a good cook and I’d treat you to my Swiss/Italian cooking 🙂 Save up your dimes and make a plan. We all live on our hopes! 🙂

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  1. My lone (and likely forever lone) experience in the air was my round trip to New York on the ABC network’s dime in 2001. There was quite a contrast between the two flights. The outbound flight was on Wednesday, mid-morning, and was half empty. My Dad took the window seat, so I never even got to look out the window while we were in the air. The return flight was on a late Friday afternoon and was so jam packed that me and Dad weren’t even in the same row. We both got stuck in middle seats, and you could not move at all. It took days for my back to recover from that flight. That was all a few months before 9/11 changed the airport experience forever, and not for the better as you alluded to… so needless to say, I’ll just stay home from now on.

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    1. And they are MUCH worse now. No one wants those middle seats — for all those reasons. I always go for the aisle so I can get to the bathroom without try to clamber over other tormented souls. Unless someone’s gonna pay for first class, nope. Not doing it.

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    2. @evil squirrel….. (what a name! 🙂 ) – When, in 1973, my then husband and I flew from Zurich to Toronto we were barely on the same flight (there was one per week!!!!) and we, the young married couple had seats in such wide apart rows that I thought I was dying. A kind man offered to take my place so that I could sit next to my hubby….. It was a 9hsomething flight – and now we take the plane just like a bus. But I tend to ‘hate’ it, I prefer taking a train and luckily we have very good lines and very punctual ones too…. The waiting for your flight, the terrible checks at any time, the passing through all those controls and the schlepping of your baggage for miles and miles really doesn’t help with any urge to fly. As for me; I don’t think I will ever again come to the US…. and I like to fly less and less, there are the ecological footprints to consider too. And yet!!!

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  2. I was looking at Amtrak timetables recently and it looks as if it ought to be possible to travel to Boston from Arizona but of course, they don’t mention in timetables the days when trains get delayed or canceled or that you might have to carry your bags all around the station. The timetable was a little confusing to read the way it is set out too.
    I sometimes watch YouTube films that people make about train journeys. and I’ve been attracted to the idea of travelling across the USA by train since I read “The Golden Spike” in primary school. I imagine myself on the California Zephyr or the Southwest Chief. It really is a shame that train travel is not cheaper and easier because it is so much pleasanter than flying is these days.

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    1. It looked simple until I started to try to set up an actual schedule and discovered that there were no connected rails after the first A -B section. Between B and C was a long bus ride, followed by two more trains. And you haul the luggage. They aren’t even all that expensive, but getting any kind of privacy (and a bathroom!) is hit or miss. Some trains have them, others just have one per car and we are at an age where sharing a bathroom with 30 other people is not for us. I could live without their sleeper bed (very uncomfortable is the universal reaction to them) because the reclining seats ARE comfortable … but no bathroom? I don’t think so. I had ALWAYS wanted to travel the northern route across the Sierras and Rockies, but our ultimate goal was Arizona and the only way to get there at all was via Chicago then down, or down and then across. It got hopelessly complicated.

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      1. We, again, when we were very young and innocent and fresh and and and, took the Greyhound to travel to Mexico from San Antonio – we were, of course, the only Swiss couple and we learned rather rapidly to add a small bill of a few dollars to our passports at every control post because the driver told us in full attendance of the whole busload that should we not do that he would throw us out of his vehicle…. and the other passengers were very much of the same opinion because at that time he had to collect all the passports and he was trying to put ours at the bottom of his pile to avoid loosing too much time with the very frequent controls…. 😉 In hindsight it was quite funny but at the time we were sweating blood and tears and hoped not to be deposited next to a few cacti!

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    1. I’m not afraid of planes. I’m terrified of airports! And now, the seats are really ridiculous. They weren’t comfortable when I was very thin, but now, when usually you can’t even recline the seat, it’s a nightmare. People will fly because it’s the only way to go a long distance when you are on a schedule, but they will become increasingly unhappy about it.

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  3. I used to fly within our country and to Europe without a qualm and mostly comfortably. When my daughter was a flight attendant years and years ago, I could fly anywhere for just the cost of taxes. Now, I have no desire to fight the airport madness, nor to fly in a claustrophobic atmosphere. I just sit home and wait for my younger, flyer friends to come to me.

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    1. We’ve flown to Arizona twice because we just aren’t up for the long drive. I wish we COULD drive it because there’s a lot of country I’d like to see … but we really aren’t up to that many hours in the car these days.

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  4. I would have to agree with you Marilyn, flying isn’t much fun these days. I think with all the security, the line ups, the waiting, and the cramming into small spaces, you’d find flying in one of those two seaters more fun.
    Leslie

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  5. I’ve flown and really love it, even though we nearly crashed on my first ever flight. The winds at this particular airport are seriously bad and we circled the runway for 45 minutes while the pilot attempted to land several times, and several of which sent our plain sideways and I saw grass coming at me instead of the runway. When we finally landed, a pilot sitting in the back flew up to the cockpit and announced what an outstanding job the pilot had done and he’d been white knuckling it the entire time. After which he was yanked into the cockpit and the door slammed shut. Apparently, they didn’t want us knowing how serious it was. Trust me, we were white-faced, all of us. I’m extremely fair to begin with but I guess I took on a ghostly appearance and a fella sitting behind decided I needed someone and came to sit beside me. Trust me, his being there wouldn’t have made a difference if we’de crashed. But it was a nice thought.

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