Familiar Halifax


Location:  Over Halifax

Heading:  258 degrees

Altitude:  38,000 feet

Speed:  761 km

Seat:  Window 61K


High into the Stratosphere, over an unfamiliar part of the earth, at a velocity that broaches the speed of sound and an outside temperature of -52 degrees Celsius, I'm reminded of the comfort we find in the familiar.


There are few environments that couldn't be more foreign to where man is supposed to be than this one.  Yet as a passenger, I'm reminded how familiar my environment is designed to feel.  The air is purified, heated, and pressurised to resemble that of an 8,000-foot fresh mountain top.  The drinking water is trusted and clean - pure from the Ochil Hills in Perthshire.  The wine has been sourced from vineyards off the foothills of Spain.  Even the nearby toilet is designed for convenience - so much in fact that I believe it's less distance to walk to than in my own flat.  I look around and see how comfortable everybody is staring at their screens - the blue and white glow flickering on blank faces as they sit in a cylinder of steel propelled by four jet-fuelled engines through a dark sky - almost as if everybody were seated in their own living rooms.


I too, am just as guilty.  I remove my headphones from my iPad as the final credits roll up to a film I was wanting to watch.  I question if it had been a good idea to watch 'Sully' while on board an actual flight, but given that no other passengers could see my screen, I decided 'why not'.


The man next to me types intently on his laptop, nervously shifting his glasses as he looks over printed documents, green highlighter in his right hand.  He looks stressed.  By an arrival location that has a different dialect to his departure accent, I assume he's preparing for an overseas business meeting.  We're due to land late into the night, and by the feel of things, I'd suspect his presentation is first thing tomorrow morning.  The uniformed cabin crew bustle about, exhibiting remarkable patience amidst the flurry of requests that come their way.  Water, juice, bread, tea, coffee.  I look out the window, and for the first time in hours, I see the scattered lights of land appear and slowly roll over to greet us across the dark horizon.  The onboard map reads 'Halifax'.


This alititude always seems to do funny things to me.  My mind begins to wander, jumping from topic to topic as if I'm at home choosing the next Netflix film to watch.  Do I explore this line of thought?  No, keep going.  How about that line of thought?  Sure.  Maybe it's nothing to do with cabin pressure and more to do with the fact that I'm not connected to the constant pull of the wifi push.  In one of the last bastions of a notification-free space, my mind wanders, explores and thinks freely.  It wanders through various mental neighbourhoods and decides to visit a curious thought of what life will be like in the future.


Let's imagine if the human race were to accomplish the unfathomable feat of interplanetary settlement, what would we choose to fill our future homes with?  It's an entertaining thought.  In an environment foreign and harsh, surely we'd need to make the unfamiliar feel familiar - just as we're doing with this plane.  Would we equip our atmosphere-proof utopian pods with TVs to watch the latest episodes of Game of Thrones and Black Mirror?  Would we welcome the new views of harsh landscapes, or would we prefer to install window installations that cycle familiar landscape images of New York, the Grand Canyon, or that mighty Alaskan Bear catching a fish?  Would a new style of cuisine emerge?  Would we eat Earth's Italian one night and East Utopia B the next?  Perhaps the hot new restaurant around the corner is an interplanetary fusion restaurant - where we dine with neighbours from Commune B and discuss the tales of the new mysterious family we've heard has arrived in Pod C, only to each crave the moment we can sneak back to our pods, relax, and eat our imported bag of fried earth crisps.


My mind stops wandering as I see the Brooklyn city lights emerge into view.


The cabin lights fade in and illuminate slowly; the captain instructs the cabin crew to prepare descent procedures.


A few hours ago, I was in a black cab.  Now time to jump into a yellow one.


Time to land.