Last week a flight bound for Switzerland crashed as it tried to make an emergency landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As in the past, within a week or mere days of my being in route to a destination, an airplane would crash causing me to rethink my plans about flying, and more to the point awaken fears of flying.
16 September 1998, I flew here to Madrid on vacation to spend time with my new friend Mario, to reacquaint myself with the city, and seriously think about the possibility of my relocating to Madrid within the next two years.
Days leading up to the flight I had second thoughts about flying, which is understood. I had people question whether I was afraid of flying in the light of the Swiss Air crash. I was concerned, and afraid.
As I packed my suitcases, trying to decide whether bring my rollerblades, I kept pushing negatives thoughts to the back of mind as it related to the airplane crashing or not. It was best . . . it is best to put such fears and thoughts in the hands of God. It is beyond my control. It is beyond my control.
Upon making it to the airport in record time, after having to set the cab drive straight in regards to where I wanted to be dropped off and my appointed destination. I make it to the airport only to be told that there was a ‘weight restriction’. I was told that I would have to wait at least twenty to twenty-five minutes before receiving a seat assignment. This struck me odd, as I have never heard of such a thing. I have my reasons why I was asked to wait along with another gentlemen while people checked in long after I did and were given seat assignments.
I approached a flight attendant at the check-in counter and asked that he explain “wait/weight restriction”. I was told that this sort of thing happened all the time. A weight restriction takes place where there may be uneven load of cargo and not enough passengers to balance the airport. As strange as that may have sounded to me, I went along with it because the attendant assured me that I had a seat.
Boarding the flight, I had butterflies; I can’t recall whether I thought about turning around and heading back to Manhattan. The flight was late departing, which doesn’t surprise me. While in the lobby at Newark, there were the most obnoxious Americans with the thickest accent. The world is a free place, people are allowed to travel where their heart desires. I can’t say that I was embarrassed or shocked at their brazen loudness, they did nothing more than annoy me.
Back to the flight, I sat midway of the aircraft in a row of men only. I sat in the middle of the aisle, which I didn’t really care for. I would have much rather sat on either aisle allowing free reign to the restroom. The two men that sat on my left were also loud as they spoke of nonsensical matters. The man on my right read, watched the video monitor, and or slept for the duration of the flight.
At some point in the flight, we encountered a bit of turbulence. There was silence throughout the airplane as I am sure that many people thought of the Flight 111. My stomach sank to my toes. Traveling at night is a good thing to avoid or reduce jetlag, but when there’s turbulence, you perhaps feel as if you’re in the middle of a black hole.
Thankfully, the flight went off without a hitch [otherwise, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing my journal entry].
At Barajas International Airport, we made our way to Immigration to be processed. As I made my way beyond the official; I was stopped by a man with a badge who wanted to look menacing, but only succeeded in appearing as a stupid. He quickly flashed a badge as he asked my origins. I replied, “New York,” as he cleared my path, and I made my way to the luggage carousel to retrieve my luggage.
It took several minutes for my luggage to appear, and then I had to decide which of the two doors to walk through. The choice was simple as I didn’t have anything to declare, I proceeded to the main lobby where there were several people anxiously awaiting their family and friends. I located Mario within several seconds of my looking for him. He was leaning against a pillar, seemingly in a daze, or was just his relaxed state?
It was a great relief to finally see him after several months and e-mails. He assisted with my luggage, as we left the lobby and waited for a bus to take us to the city limits. Once inside the boundaries, we took a [Metro] subway to La Latina. Mario lives in Plaza de Cascorro, up on the fifth floor. The building is beautiful; wooden, polished stairs that wind and twist, and just a bit slippery. There are three apartments on each floor. Mario has a spacious four-bedroom apartment; each bedroom has its own patio that looks out onto the Plaza.
*Transcribed from the original recovered journal entry, 17 September 1998.