Monday, April 11, 2016

The Landing (of an Aircraft) as Performance

Picture the scene if you will. Tension replaces the subdued and relaxed feeling that previously filled the atmosphere for the past four or five hours. A cacophony of clicking sounds follow as the intercom announces the aircraft's impending touchdown. Flight attendants scurry back and forth as seat-belts are fastened. Strange sounds emanate from the aircraft, definitely more amplified and more noticeable than previously. The amplified droning of the aircraft as it steadily decreases altitude, cannot drown out the silence emanating from the passengers, some of whom cast nervous glances outside the side windows. The cockpit gives the attendants final instructions to be seated. The silence in the aircraft intensifies. Silent thoughts occupy the mind of each passenger. None voices her thoughts in those moments; she thinks them. And one can only imagine what those thoughts might be. 

The speed of descent increases. Objects outside, which barely moved before, now rush by (No time to reflect on the theory of relativity here. Who cares about E = MC squared at this moment?). A few hands are joined, perhaps (Who can tell? No one is looking.). Prayers are whispered (perhaps). Breaths are held (perhaps). Muscles are stiffened (perhaps). An eternity later, the sudden thud of the landing gear making contact with the runway causes the release of those breaths, the relaxing of those muscles, and the uplifting of thankful hearts as the aircraft rolls powerfully along before its arrest by the application of reverse thrust, culminating in a thunderous applause by the passengers who are either impressed by the efficient landing skills of the pilot or simply relieved. But that is not what is important here. It is the sudden sound of that applause post "performance", that release of contracted tension that occupies my thoughts, reminding me that almost all my fellow passengers on the aircraft are from the English-speaking Caribbean and that such is customarily their combined response to the landing of an aircraft. And despite the sonorous plaudits I doubt whether an encore would have been desired.

[photo art by Angela Pereira]