Seatbacks and tray tables up

Part 2 of the Tennessee Chronicles

So here we are again (with due credit to the Fountains of Wayne, whose song title I’ve borrowed), mashed into these seats on a commuter jet, our baggage along with our prayers for a safe journey jammed into the compartments overhead. The plane is nearly full and all seems well. Then the flight attendant with the frown says we can’t change seats because the plane is “weight-balanced.” “This plane has three sections, A, B and C,” she explains. “Each has to be weight-balanced so you can’t move.” She smiles at the guy who’s trying to change seats. Someone in the back of the plane chuckles. At least they’re taking things in stride.

The Canadair CL65 revs its engines and we rumble and rise, the high pitched whine of the controls cutting through the roar. Below, a boat plies the Delaware River, silver in the winter light. The white storage tanks of oil refineries dot the gray land. Subdivisions spread and lengthen their reach, the houses arrayed in rows like bullets in a bandoleer, the cars slowing as we gain altitude and speed, proof of Einstein’s theory that as a body approaches the speed of light objects elongate and time slows. Suddenly the plane stops shuttering and the stress drops away with the ground, the clouds a carpet of foam, the sky a crystal blue.

Nashville Intl Airport skylightIn two hours we drop from the heavens on Nashville, the hills folding into themselves like cake batter, the landing gear descending with a clunk, the concrete flowing rapidly beneath, and we’re down, wrestling bags from the overhead, checking phone messages and email, rolling through the terminal, down a flight to baggage claim and another to ground transportation and the rental car, a hulking beast that could seat a football team.

Annette is waiting for us, a short woman in her mid-60s with dark brown hair and glasses, a red chapeau and matching jacket, golden earrings like small boxes, a necklace of silver-white beads, a silver-gray purse with running shoes to match. She looks like a Christmas package, with wide eyes and a beneficent smile. Later I discover she used to be a nun, so the image fits. Since Carlene, Dinny, Karen and Annette have all worked together at various times for several companies, they exchange hugs and roll the luggage to the rental lot, where the car, and the journey into the heartland, await.

Tomorrow: the long and winding road.