Friday, December 18, 2009

On Airplanes

I continue to have dreams about airplanes. It started about two months ago, right after the night that my roommate, Gretchen, and I parked on the roof of the Laurel Street Parking Garage and watched the planes land at the airport in San Diego. I spot each plane a few hundred yards (or miles?) off, as a glimmering speck in the night sky, and they approach quickly, suddenly right overhead, engines roaring, and I imagine the hundreds of people staring down at me. And I wave.

The wind kicks back hard, and my hair flies. The feeling, the hard soaring rush, takes my breath away. The last plane we watched before sneaking back down the stairs to my car (technically you’re not supposed to go up there, but it is decidedly a thing to do in San Diego) makes a wobbly landing. Gretchen gasps, I hold my breath; it’s all very exciting.

I imagine that airplanes wobble all the time upon landing. Never a fun or pleasant experience when it happens, it isn’t exactly life threatening either. I have a cousin with a PhD in aerospace engineering, and one time he came to dinner at my family’s house. He told us that planes are designed to wobble; they’re made for it. “Turbulence is natural,” he said. “Those wings can bend back more than 45 degrees without snapping off.”

I should have paid attention to the first part of his sentence, but the words that stuck in my mind were, of course, the last two: snapping off. Can they do that?

So about these dreams I’ve been having—

The first one, that night after the wobbly plane, was most definitely what I would classify as a nightmare. I dreamt that I was watching the landing, once again on the top of the garage, but this time, the wings didn’t just wobble. The plane’s front end plowed straight into the runway, and the whole thing actually caught on fire. I woke up in a cold sweat.

About a week later I had another dream, pretty similar to the first in the fact that it was terrifying (have I mentioned I almost never have a “good” dream?). This time, I watched a plane take off the runway with one of my friends on board. If you’ve ever seen the movie Final Destination, my dream was very similar to the opening scene—kid gets on plane, has a dream it’s going to crash, gets off plane without his friends, watches plane take off, plane blows up in sky, kid screams, roll movie.

Okay, so this was getting weird, right? Two plane crash dreams in the span of a couple weeks? I told Gretchen about it, and her response was pretty intuitive.

“We live two blocks from the flight path, Rachel. Maybe you’re hearing the planes land at night and the sound gets into your dreams.”

Of course! Okay, so maybe these dreams aren’t prophesies from God trying to tell me that the choices I’m making in life, or the “paths” I’m on are wrong and that I should turn right around and jump off the plane because it is going to friggin CRASH into the runway.

But wait a minute, I think. I wear earplugs when I sleep.

I forget about all of this for a couple more weeks. I go to my aunt’s for Thanksgiving, I drive up to San Luis and Santa Barbara for a wedding, and no plane dreams. But last night, I had another one.

Not a nightmare, at last!, this one was more about me watching someone take off in my plane. I don’t know how I knew it was mine, but in dreams, a whole lot of things happen that don’t need explaining. But this time, I wasn’t on the runway or on top of the garage. I was flying next to the plane, outside of it, looking in. I was scared the entire time that the thing was going to fall apart; it shook convulsively. It was an old plane, a weird plane, a plane I’ve never even seen before. The person on the inside wore goggles and a cap, maybe even a scarf? He, at least I think it was a he, smiled broadly. He was really excited and really happy, and I was really confused. Doesn’t he know this thing could plummet straight to the ground in a blaze of metal? But he could care less. He was flying.

I awoke, sensing the thickness of my earplugs. I bought a new pair last night at Joroco’s Market on 25th Street after work. My old earplugs were getting a bit squished, a bit waxy to be perfectly frank. I wasn’t used to this new pair. My ears almost hurt a little, so I took them out. The first thing I heard was a plane landing at the airport a few blocks away. “Can I hear them with my earplugs?” I think. “Or is there a reason I’m having these dreams.”

Airplanes creep into my subconscious, and into my conscious as a matter of fact, regularly. Aware of it or not, I dressed up as Amelia Earhart for Halloween this year. Just a couple days ago I listened to a story on NPR about an 80-year-old woman who learned to fly a plane. And yes, as last night proves, I continue to have these dreams. So why, I ask, all the airplanes? 


  1. Rachel you are creeping me out with the airplane thing because I am traveling to multiple countries over Christmas break and I have been uneasy about my travels since I first booked the tickets over a month ago. Blast you and your blog!

  2. Sorry, Kristen. I'm sure you'll be fine. Remember, 45 degrees!