The surrealism of a 6am flight

Let me begin by saying that there is no good reason for 15 minute delays at the Holland Tunnel at 4:15am, even if it is the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.  And yet, there we were, sitting in the back of the car, slowly inching our way under the Hudson River and towards New Jersey.  That is only one of many things that are quite surreal to me about the process of making it to the airport for a 6am flight.

I’ve taken such flights plenty of times – there is no better way to be in Washington, DC for work at 8am than to catch the 6am Shuttle flight down and then hop on the Metro.  Most of the time it is an easy ride to the airport and then sleepwalking through the security lines, onto the plane and collapsing in a heap of sleep in the seat.  But every now and then, like this morning, there is something just a bit different about the experience that stands out.

For starters, it is a Friday morning rather than a Monday, my usual 6am departure days.  Friday morning at 4:15am is a lot like Thursday night at 4:15am for many folks in New York City and we saw plenty of them out this morning.  There were Groups of friends making their way back to the subway, shouting back and forth with admirers in cars passing by.  Folks were trying to find cabs – always a challenge at 4am and 4pm thanks to shift changes.  And there was one cute couple tucked into an alcove on the side of a building making out and enjoying the waning moments of their night.

And then there was us, having already been to bed, woken up and ready to head out to the airport. Other than the brief delay at the Holland Tunnel and the wholly unsurprising “bag check” that I received courtesy of the TSA (here’s a hint: If you’re going to waste my time checking the bag you probably should check the whole thing) the airport experience was really just the same as always; even checking in the dive gear was painless.

And then back to the not so normal.  There were maintenance trucks of some sort working on runway 22R (normally used for southbound departures at Newark) so we actually used the “wrong” runway for our takeoff this morning.  Not a big deal on a 757 but definitely different.  And then there is Captain Chisolm, our pilot today.  I’m not quite sure that I’ve ever heard anyone quite so chipper at 6:15am, certainly not on an airplane.  I’m not a huge fan of the comedy shtick during the announcements but this guy managed to make it work.  Among the witticisms:

The weather in Miami calls for broken clouds at 25,000 feet. You just can’t have nice things – you let someone play with your clouds and they end up broken.

We’re going to be flying south today straight to Miami.  When I see my house in Ft. Lauderdale I’ll know it is time to start the descent.

Glad that he’s having fun up there and I’m sure it isn’t the.  I know that I’m doing just fine back here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. OK, heh, I laughed at the pilot’s remarks. (Even more so when I just typed “pirate’s” instead of “pilot’s”.)

    Have a great trip!

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