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It was just supposed to be an ordinary ride. I take the flight out to Martha’s Vineyard at least once a month. It usually all goes smoothly; I get on the plane, stare out the window for an hour, and get off. I mind my own business.
Walking to the Cessna 152, I saw the pilot waiting for me. I sped up a bit, like you do when crossing the street after a car stops for you, feeling slightly awkward.
“Andrew Evans?” he called out.
“That’s me,” I replied. I had a meeting with an important client and was already a little stressed.
We climbed into the small two seater plane and I asked his name.
He paused for a moment before saying, “Jackson Riggs.”
He did all his checks, looking around the c***pit. I could not tell you for the life of me what any of the buttons he was pressing did. I just put on my headset and tried to relax into my seat. We taxied down the runway and got the go ahead for takeoff. Jackson muttered something to himself, but I ignored it, and we were soon in the air.
As we went higher, the people of Scranton got smaller.
When we hit turbulence on a clear day, it should have been the first warning for me to get off that plane.
My thoughts were interrupted by a voice in my headset.
“Do you ever think ‘bout how crazy planes are?” Jackson was yelling into his microphone, slurring his words. “They just fly… like in the air!”
I sat up in my seat, trying my hardest to pull it together. I rubbed my eyes hoping I had just dozed off for a second and this was all in my imagination. But I looked to my left and Jackson was still there, unaware as ever.
“Umm Jackson?” I said. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. That’s when I noticed the empty bottle of wine sitting next to him. I began freaking out and was hitting the windows, as if it was just some simulation I could be taken out of. But we were still in the air and my pilot was still drunk.
I considered slapping Jackson across the face but then I realized it would make him even more worthless. I tried to focus and get him to pay attention.
“So um how does a plane fly?” I asked. Being that I have no experience flying, I needed to get some information out of a trained pilot.
After getting a grunt and then a drunk chuckle, I screamed into the microphone.
“TELL ME HOW THE GODDAMN PLANE WORKS!”
I was getting more desperate and scared for my life.
He gestured vaguely at the handles and buttons.
I looked from one side of the c***pit to the next. There were levers and buttons and switches and maps. There were different colored handles and dials that did god knows what. Who needs so many speedometers?! There were things spinning and lights flashing. Jackson’s voice snapped me out of my confusion.
“I come up and go back down and then do something like that,” he said. He looked at me as if that cleared up anything.
“That doesn’t help me!” I looked him straight in the eye and asked, “How do I land?”
Jackson’s giddy smile suddenly drooped and his eyes widened.
“How do I know how high it goes, how low it goes?” He said with fear in his voice. “You don’t! You don’t!”
“What is wrong with you?” I muttered, not expecting him to hear.
He began to sob.
“My wife just left me and... and she took my whole salt and pepper shaker collection. She even took the porcelain whale ones,” he said as his voice turned into a full out cry by the end.
I sat there in shock. How did I get here I thought. Sitting next to a drunk pilot who is bawling and I have no idea how to land the plane. I decided to comfort him for the sake of our lives.
“Jackson? What if I bought you new salt and pepper shakers? And your wife probably wasn’t that great anyways.” I just wanted to land. I would have done whatever it took.
“But... but we had pac man ones,” he said falling into tears again.
I contemplated how I would get myself out of this but then remembered we were in a thousand pounds of metal falling through the air.
“I’ll get you whichever shakers you want, just land this plane, please, I beg of you.”
Jackson managed to pull it together enough to point out the pedals and buttons I was supposed to use. As he sat in his seat staring out the window with the bottle of wine in his hands, I did my best to get us to the runway. As I pulled back on random gears, I sighed. I somehow managed to land. And I thought my business meeting would be the most stressful part of the day.