The plane was one-third of the way through its takeoff when I smelled the indistinguishable odor of smoke. Of all the awesome things that have ever happened to me, this wasn’t one of those things.
“Ha, that can’t be smoke, that’s impossible,” the optimist in me said while switching my iPod from airplane mode to off for good measure, because, to be honest, I hadn’t followed the safety instructions and turned my electronics to the off position.
I looked to my left. The girl seated beside me could smell the smoke, too. I could tell. Just as I could tell the seasoned business traveler in 13C smelled it, too. And the hot mom in 12D. The elderly man in 11B didn’t look like he smelled it, though maybe he had a cold or some sort of old person nose condition.
But smoke or no smoke, nose condition or no nose condition, that plane kept moving, faster and faster down that JFK runway.
As the 737’s wheels left the earth, the smell of smoke grew. As did the sight of it. A thin gray sheet of fumes crept out from the back of the aircraft. And then came the alarm. The “womp-womp-womp-womp” death blare - a sound that, if translated into English would say, “You’re all fucked.” And even if the alarm didn’t sound that way to you, the sight of an overweight flight attendant with a fire extinguisher the size of a ketchup bottle waddling franticly down the center aisle as the plane began its ascent into the sky certainly did.
There was fear in that man’s eyes. His belly was also rippling, which was funny.
I looked out the window as the smoke got thicker and the smell more acrid. I looked down at the houses in Queens, wondering which one’s living room I’d be burning alive inside of sometime in the next two to four minutes. I wondered which people down there we’d hit and take with us. And was that a Jack in the Box down there? A Jumbo Jack with cheese, so close, yet so far. I didn’t think they had those in New York. Maybe we’d crash close enough to the hospital, and I’d have a chance to escape alive, with only minor scrapes. But probably not.
Nope, I was going to die on this flight, smothered inside and out in a thick coating of burning jet fuel. This is how it ends. I thought of my family and friends and my Xbox game I should have stayed up later the night before in order to beat. I didn’t think of the girl I was dating at the time, a sure sign I should’ve called it off long before I got on the plane.
I wished it was her on that plane instead of me.
Undoubtedly, others were having similar thoughts because the plane was silent, its 130 passengers deep in self reflection. You could’ve heard a pin drop, but I asked the woman next to me, and she didn’t have any pins on her. She was crying, though. I managed to hear that as I held her arm and comforted her by reciting popular lines from Airplane!
“This is the captain speaking,” came a reassuring voice from the cockpit. “Obviously we have a bit of smoke in the cabin, nothing to be worried about. We are cleared to land on Runway 12.” I made up that number. I really forget which number he said.
The plane banked the hardest left I’d ever felt. G’s were attained, to what number I do not know because I don’t have aeronautical experience, nor do I know what G stands for or where the G spot is located, for that matter. But by that point there was a certain level enjoyment to this experience. The captain seemed chill enough, and if I did die, well, at least I’d made it to the age where I could buy my own pornographic magazines.
Our plane was greeted on the ground by five fire trucks (of the ones I could count). We pulled to the gate and three hours later, I was on another flight - and another plane - to Chicago. To this day, for our suffering in the skies over Queens, I still don’t understand why they didn’t let us use the slides.