Mild hallucination often sets in―this time of night.
You're weary and stiff, butt-sore, and numby. Coffee lost its appeal hours ago. But you force down a last cup of the putrid stuff on the promise of it's poisonous jolt. You blink hard and rub your sandpaper eyelids.
Only an hour left and you strain to see the glow ahead; you'll touch down just as old Big Eye trains his laser at you from the far Atlantic. But for now it's the darkest its been all night, except for stars and passing jets. Some of them flash their lights. They want confirmation that you see them, that you are here with them, feeling crappy with them. A brotherhood, of sorts.
A glance at the clock, the fuel, the guy across the cockpit, him glancing back, with a shrug, a sigh, a cuss. “Livin' the dream, man, livin' the dream,” he mumbles, unlatching his belt and casting it off. “Head Call, for me. I'm goin' to the back."
The door opens and a flight attendant appears, he disappears, she slams the door, hands me more vile black liquid. “Here, this is fresh-brewed,” she says, forcing a tired smile. She wants me to stay awake. For me to sleep is her death. I try to be thankful and pretend to drink. “One hour left,” I blurt, knowing the question is coming, knowing she already knows it, and knows I know that. It's that kind of night.
“What beautiful stars,” she says, trying to make small talk. I nod and turn the lights down so that we can see them better. “Wow, look at that one,” she says, pointing straight ahead. I look. It's big and bright. It flashes at us.
“That's no star,” I say with a chuckle. “No, that's a plane coming at us. Looks to be slightly high to us. He's flashing. See?”
“Oh. How nice,” she says.
I show her the light switch and tell her to flash him. She toggles the switch and giggles.
“Do you always do that?” she asks.
“Not all the time,” I say. “Just sometimes.” Talking gets burdensome this time of night.
“Look! He's still flashing,” she says.
So he is. A persistent guy. I wonder which airline he rides in the nose of. She flashes our lights again.
“Cool!” she cries. "He's got colored lights!"
This girl is hallucinating, I fear. It's that kind of night. But forward, I lean, crusty eyes widening, trying to focus. Damn! He does have colored lights. Flashing amber now, then pale blue. Now orange.
Just as the tone sounds, alerting me that the first officer is ready to come back up, it hits me. I'm glad of the tone. There will be no more discussion with this woman about airplane lights. She disappears and closes the door, to tell to her peers her newly learned flying skills.
The first officer sits, sighs, runs his fingers through his hair and leans forward peering ahead. “Wow!”he says. Venus is really booming tonight.”
I nod and smile. Dumb girl. She flashed our lights at another planet.
Yeah, mild hallucinations often set in―this time of night.
Here's a lamentation for you intrepid RJ pushers:
by Richard L. Barlow
It's ugly and worn,
lopsided and torn.
It's lumpy and wet,
from coffee and sweat.
"It reeks so bad!" they'll all say,
from no APU with a nine leg day.
It's too hard when you're too soft,
remember those hours you spent in the LOFT?
But it calls you back, it knows your name,
whispers, "the view from here, it's just not the same."
With all of this, it still can't be beat,
you're PIC now, so strap in the seat!