Friends at 40,000 feet

September 24, 2008

I’m living vicariously through two high school friends since spending time with them last week in Florida. Charlie and Danny are civilian pilots who fly extraordinary jets, sometimes to exotic and far-flung places.

We had less ambitious expeditions in school, including one I’ve written about before. And on Friday, Charlie and I reminisced during a drive to New Smyrna Beach how he and I would intentionally get lost in my dad’s 1962 MGA sports car simply for the hell of it.

We’d skip school and off we’d go, letting inspiration decide where to take us. Once we bumped along a dirt road for miles, trailing plumes of dust through dense swampland. We were hopelessly lost and happy for it.

When we finally came upon a paved road, a sign pointed the way: New Smyrna, where yet another adventure awaited: falling asleep on the beach, then getting the car stuck as high tide lapped ever closer.

And where are Charlie and Danny now as a write? I came across this link to a world map showing in pinpricks of yellow light all the air traffic worldwide during twenty-four hours. Among the thousands of planes flitting across the globe like so many fireflies, which two are my friends guiding through the night? I hear their radio voices, crisp and clipped with pilot jargon, and see instrument lights illuminating their faces.

Even at 40,000 feet, they know the way.