Category Archives: Air

Where to use audio books

There are many places where you can listen to recorded books. When considering a potential listening location, a common concern is distraction: the world around you making it hard to follow the world in the book. Last weekend I discovered a complimentary combination: my physical environment augmented the reality of the book.

I listened to the first two hours of the unabridged 9/11 Commission Report (Chapter 1, “We have some planes”, details the events of that day) while traveling on a domestic flight. Imagine that.

There must be a great many interesting combinations of content and location. Have you ever run into anything like this by accident?

I love to fly.

As a small boy I was excited by airline flights. My family flew somewhere together once every few years. At that rate of experience, novelty hung on for quite some time.

I only got sick once during a flight. I still think it had little to do with turbulence and a lot to do with the way I was dressed up by my well-meaning parents. Those green slacks were just asking to be covered in vomit.

Last year, for my job as a travelling geek, I flew enough miles that Northwest Airlines gave me the status of Silver Elite. This meant free first-class upgrades and priority boarding. I already cashed in the miles for free tickets to my brother's wedding in New Orleans but the Elite status should last through the year. Unfortunately Northwest's flights are among the most expensive I can find; the "free upgrades" come at a cost.

In a few hours I'll be on a plane to San Francisco. The flight is scheduled for 7:11 departure. My usual pattern for an early flight is to stay up all night, clean the apartment and pack my luggage. This morning, as I lay on my bed faking a nap, I wondered why I developed this pattern.

Am I kept awake by a subconscious fear of flying? Do I avoid sleep because I have a terrible time waking up to an alarm and I dread missing the flight? Is the prospect of forgetting to pack an important article enough to prevent sleep? Would three hours of sleep be better than no sleep at all?

My alarm just went off; I've been typing this instead of sleeping. I'll try to catch a few winks on the plane, but if I don't it won't be a problem for very long. I'll be tired enough to fall asleep at a normal hour, several hours before my usual crash time.

During my last flight into Austin, as I often do I pondered the possibility of the plane touching the ground before its scheduled arrival time and at a location not well suited for jet landings. I wrote this down:

If there is no death unordained, and all of the passengers of an airplane will die in a crash, then the likelihood of a plane crash is equal to the likelihood of a plane being filled with people ordained to die.

I find this strangely comforting. 


Thank you very much for the opportunity to work here. The job is everything I could ask for and more. Your offer is an act of pure generosity. There is just one thing I must inspect before I can commit myself into your service. May I see your air handling equipment?

What? Ducts that were designed to impede cleaning without mitigating the necessity–colonies of unidentified streptococci so large as to be visible on the vents–a palpable hardness to the settling gases they expel–motors that fling shreds of their own wear and tear into the air they move–electric fields whose effects on the air have been neither theorized nor tested–filters that provide breeding grounds for unseen colonies of bacteria who rejoice at the strong winds for delivering nourishment in abundance and whisking away offspring to their hopeful destinies in the respiratory tracts of people–people upon people upon people, packed into spaces with no access to the purifying light of the sun–a death camp for the willing.

You want me to work here? You want me, who was born from flesh into air and has left it only briefly to dive or be buried in sand at the beach, who drinks it every moment, who slips into soliloquy on tasting a rare whiff from a wet pine grove, who dreams of flight as a fish dreams of swimming, who desires fast travel only for the solid sensation of wind against body, who gapes and yawns for the lack of it, who would kill rather than suffocate, to spend a third part of my life immersed in this?

Fuck you.

Introduction: Party

[This is the first in what I expect to be a series of articles about the most important element of my being.]

Last night I had occasion to turn on the air conditioner. The nature of the occasion was more social than thermal: friends were gathering for a small party and I preferred to contain all of the airborne effects so as not to annoy the neighbors while maintaining a lively and comfortable atmosphere. A/C it would have to be.

I hardly mind a little bit of air conditioning now and then. The accompanying sneezes and runny nose matter less to me than my general unease in artificial atmosphere and the unnatural rumble of air handling equipment, and these things hardly have time to encroach upon my joie de vivre before such a gathering disperses into the night.

When I returned home from an hour of taxi driving, I opened the front door and collided with a wall of stale, cool air. It was my fault for not allowing the atmosphere to purge during my absence, I thought as I found something soft to sneeze into. It would continue to be my fault as I lazily fell into bed without opening a window or turning off the air conditioner.

Hours later, unable to sleep, I remembered what had made me so uncomfortable when I walked through the door. Flinging away bedclothes, I stormed to the thermostat and killed the rumbling monster in my ceiling, then opened every window in the apartment. When I felt the warm, fresh air tumble in, I knew it was time to sleep.

Slowly entering my consciousness over the course of the first half of this year, my distaste for air conditioning has taken firm root where I can see it. Years of evidence went by the boards as I ignored my own experience: endurance in nature had never attended the onset of illness in me but this was too deep a revelation. I would not see the truth without walking around it a few times, as a dog circles before settling on the ground.