Sometimes I’ll admit I have one of those days. Days where I’m so consumed by my backaches and pains, that the only thing I’d rather do is stay home, be entranced by a book or a film, my duvet a cozy cocoon. On these days, I welcome my solitude and enjoy the view of the (still currently) snow peaked mountains from my terrace or kitchen window.
Some days though, I’m taken out of this cocoon, aches and all, and I’m reminded to allow myself to be taken in by a new view, even if only for a moment. That moment can change us for the better.
In March I was invited to join a friend and a colleague for a flight lesson on a 4 seater plane. My colleague, Paul, who is close to retirement, is working toward obtaining his pilot license and figured it would be nice to have some passengers along for the ride. After a bit of hesitation, and I’ll admit, fears of Paul’s piloting skills (he doesn’t have his license yet!) I accepted the offer and prepared myself for a Saturday of fun in the skies.
This was my first time getting on a 4-seater plane. Naturally, I was inquisitive: accessibility being the main concern. Thankfully, Paul seemed to keep all this in mind and assured me it was something I could handle. “I’ve been on an elephant in India. I think I can do this,” I casually replied, concealing all the minor trepidations and doubts that were lurching in the pit of my stomach.
My main worry was how I’d even be able to get inside. 4-seater planes don’t normally have steps or those clever little cars that whiz you on up to plane level. I’ve had my fair share of those in airports, but somehow, I couldn’t imagine the humble, little Agno airport in Lugano having one. “You’ll step onto the wing and then jump unto the seat,” he explained, carefully calculating the distance from the classroom to the actual plane, and how much I’d have to walk to get there. There were some details that needed ironing out, but nevertheless, I agreed to give it ago, throwing caution to the wind (no pun intended).
That Saturday afternoon after a quick lesson on codes and heavy flight jargon (they don’t say things like “roger” or “over and out”) the flight instructor, Jacopo, led us to the airport landing strip and introduced us to this little beauty. Now I can’t remember her name…but I’d like to think it was something pragmatic yet comforting…like Velma.
Velma stood heroically, wings and propeller at a firm stance. Immediately I saw her wings were not very high at all and in fact even Tyrion Lannister could have been able to hop on with little difficulty.
Despite that however, I still needed a few extra arms and hands to hoist me up and keep me steady, as the wings aren’t completely flat and you do need to have a good sense of balance once up there. Having a prosthetic leg definitely throws your balance off at times, especially when under uneven terrains or surfaces. Jacopo was efficient and quick to lend a hand, and kept his cool even while we were trying to figure out the next step: how do I get inside with so little leg room left? Because I have a hip disarticulation amputation, it isn’t so easy to step up and bend the leg and pelvis with little leg space available. But sturdy, pragmatic
Velma proved trust worthy so far, and I knew it was now or never. I quickly lifted my right foot, my left side swerving a bit as the gentlemen held my waist and torso. My friend, Helen, had already sat down and made sure she was on the other end just in case. Because the leg room was so cramped, I had to step onto the seat, then pulling up my prosthetic leg, Bruce Lee (will explain in a later post), relying on Helen to hold the cane and help me bend the leg. Once that was done, I could slowly but surely crouch down into my seat. Phew. The rest was pretty much a cake walk, as I leaned back smiling proud, clutching on to my bulky aircraft headphones.
As warned, it was a bumpy but amazing ride. We drifted over Saronno and Milan, taking in the aerial views of mountain tops, green valleys, and lustrous lakes along the way. The warm rays beamed through the windows on our faces, as the sunshine cast an ethereal glow over the horizon. Velma hummed and roared, and yet oddly enough, I felt a sense of peace.
That Saturday afternoon I was reminded how much the world can change when we look at it from a different view. While it may be safer to stay on ground, and dwell in the comfort of that cocoon, sometimes we need a good jolt and challenge to remind us how capable we are. That day, as I was carried off the plane (it was just easier to be carried out), I felt grateful; grateful for the experience, the people I could share it with, and more importantly, for the view from my window.