Wednesday, January 8, 2014

No. 148 – Like Suicide

Performer: Soundgarden
Songwriter: Chris Cornell
Original Release: Superunknown
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None.

I had a white-hot relationship with Soundgarden in the mid- to late Nineties. It started with Superunknown and went through Down on the Upside, which, of course, was their final hurrah. Like with Metallica, my love of Soundgarden extends to their later “wussy” hard rock rather than their earlier hard-core metal. And like Metallica, now that Soundgarden is back together and playing more like their younger selves, I’m not interested.

Debbie and I started to visit San Antonio to see Suzy, her best friend there, in 1996, during the height of my Soundgarden love. We went several times over the next few years. The first visit in 1996 was the best. I’d never been, and we spent a day touring the various missions around town until winding up at the Alamo. My final visit to River City, in 1998, was particularly notable for our arrival.

Just before takeoff in Columbus, the airplane began to shake, but everything seemed fine as soon as we were in the air. OK, no problem, just some wind, I thought. Not long into the flight, however, the captain came over the p.a. and announced, “a few of you reported seeing smoke coming from the plane and pieces on the runway before takeoff …”

Now, I suppose even if you don’t have a fear of flying, that’s something you don’t want to hear your airplane pilot say. I hadn’t seen anything, because I was in an aisle seat, where I prefer to sit in case I have to go to the bathroom during the flight. Debbie was by the window. She didn’t see anything, or, as might be the case given that she knew of my phobia about flying, didn’t say anything.

But the captain said what we saw—and in fact what we’d felt upon takeoff—was a flat tire that shredded on the runway. That’s a rather unsettling event considering we’d need those tires to land, but he assured us it shouldn’t cause any problems. An airplane has lots of tires, like a semi. I wasn’t concerned—what could be done about it now?—and the rest of the flight was smooth as silk.

The pilot, nor anyone else, said anything as we came to land in San Antonio. I didn’t tense up; I didn’t think it was a big deal. However, when we landed in San Antonio, the plane shook and shimmied violently and came to a stop on the runaway … where it stayed. The captain came back on the p.a. We’re fine, he said. We’ll need a bit of repair to get moving again, so there will be a delay.

It was only then that I looked out the window and saw fire trucks driving over to the airplane. I looked at Debbie. Here eyes were wide. You didn’t see the fire trucks lined up on the runway as we came in? Ah … no, and it’s a good thing for everyone that I didn’t. No one wants to see a man in his 30s crying like a little girl for his mommy.

The incident didn’t deter me from flying home, which went off a few days later without incident. But it definitely confirmed two things for me: First, my goal is to seek the fewest number of flights possible to lessen the number of takeoffs and landings (the most dangerous parts). A direct flight is always preferable, regardless of the increase in price over a shuttle.

The second is, at least when it comes to me and airplane travel: Ignorance is bliss.

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