Where did it go ?I did something entirely new for me this last month. I bought a small pocket notebook and began jotting down impressions of my day to day events. I was driven, of course, by the fact that I spent a good portion of the month with my youngest daughter AJ (aka webmonkey) in Sydney Australia and a few days just before Christmas with number one daughter and grand kids in Southern California. As you can probably tell from that opening, I am going to try to convert my sketchy notes into something that describes what happened over those magic 21 days. But not all in one posting.
Besides the overwhelming experience of flying all most 8000 miles non-stop (13 hours in the air) there is another phenomenon that occurs when traveling west to Australia. One of the days of your life just goes away. No I don’t mean the long hours in the plane and in Airports are a wasted day. I mean that for me December 2, 2003 never happened. I boarded QF 12 on December 1, 2003 and took off for Sydney at approximately 11 PM. I flew for 13 hours and landed in Sydney on December 3, 2003 at approximately 8 AM . So where did December 2nd go. I really don’t know or do I understand this International Dateline thing. All I know that it is gone forever and I never experienced it. Ya, sure, there are those who say you gain it back on the return flight but that is just travel agent propaganda. The only thing I experienced on the return flight was the longest December 17th I’ve ever know. I left Sydney on the 17th at 12PM and arrived in LAX on the 17th at 7AM so you figure out how I arrived 5 hours before I left (more on that flight later). I was vigilant in checking, and on the return flight I never saw any evidence that we found or experienced December 2nd. It just disappeared. So, I’ve left instructions to have carved on my head stone the dates of my existence with the following disclaimer "except for December 2, 2003". I don’t want to be remembered for eternity as being inaccurate.
The return flight had its sense of irony also. Seems that in the previous week there had been a world wide gathering in Sydney of Jehovah’s Witnesses (apprx 60,000 believers). I knew something was going on during the last week in Sydney by the large numbers of camera carrying folks with name tags that were headed "Give God Glory". What I did not know was that most of the U.S. contingency would be on the plane with me. I mean no disrespect to the Jehovah’s Witness folks. It is just that most of my contact with them has come at inopportune times, at my front door, when one or more of the believers would offer literature and attempt to sway me to their way of faith. I have never been much for any strict religious doctrine or rigid interruption of the Bible so once I realized during boarding what was happening I was glad for the good novel that AJ had armed me with for the flight home. As it turned out, I ended up sitting next to a Park Interpreter for Australian Parks and Wildlife, who was on his way to Havana and a marketer for an Australian magazine published in Woolloongabba called "Your Local Wedding Guide" who was on her way to Europe via New York. These Aussies really know how to travel. My pleasure at the circumstances says something about my strong distaste of strict religious doctrine.
The great irony for me on the return flight was not the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the similarity in the problems facing the Australian Parks and U.S. National Parks. It was simply that 100 years ago, on December 17, 1903 a couple of bicycle makers took their home built contraption out to the sands of Kittyhawk and for the first time in history flew a powered aircraft. Their first flight was about 120 feet which is less than the wing span of the Boeing 747-300 I was flying. Their longest flight that day was just over 800 feet. On December 17, 2003, I flew with around 400 other people just under 8000 miles non-stop.
In 1969 I had the privilege to sit with my Grandmother and watch live and in color, Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. My grandmother was born in 1886, long before the Wright brothers flight, long before Henry Ford started producing automobiles for the masses, long before the electrification of the country, or the information age, or the atomic age, or many of the things we today take for granted. I remember her telling me of a worker the family had hired to help on the farm who was a freed slave from the Civil War. I remember the wonder and delight in her eyes as we watched the fuzzy pictures live from the moon. I do not believe she fully comprehended the science involved with that historic day but I do believe she saw the magic in it. And for me, QF-104, non-stop from Sydney to LAX on that historic day was also magic.