I’m not sure how the pilot received clearance to take off from the Tampa airport.
The winds were blowing hard. Lightning and thunder cracked around us. But the bags were loaded and, apparently, we had been waiting long enough.
We swayed down the runway toward a hopeful liftoff. We were rolling on the runway much too long. Would we be able to get the nose up before crashing?
Thankfully the nose of the plane lifted — late, but up — and we were airborne.
The person next to my right was breathing quick shallow breaths, with her long red painted nails dug deeply into the armrest. The person to my left across the aisle was clearly doing some kind of silent prayer as his lips moved, but no sound came out.
In front of me, some unidentified woman uttered loudly, “Oh. Oh. Oh.” each time the plane bounced in the turbulence. Behind me there was a conversation about the location of the air sickness bag.
The storm size reached from Tampa to the Florida border on my way to Atlanta. Clearly, there would be no quick trips to the loo. No drinks, no in-flight service of any kind.
I prefer to read on the plane. As the letters on the page bounced around with the motion of the plane, suddenly I wondered where the air sickness bag was.
The plane shuddered and bounced as we rose through the clouds. The worst airplane ride ever.
The worst part of the ride was not knowing when it would end. Every bump, every shudder of the plane, every flash of lightning, every loud clap of thunder blended with the plane bounce before and subsequent bounce that would surely follow.
Gradually the plane climbed into clean, clear air. Fortunately, I and the person behind me didn’t need the air sickness bag. The red nails next to me had retracted from the armrests. The praying and “Oh. Oh. Oh.” ceased.
Clear flying all the rest of the way on my trip to Atlanta.
The worst airline ride ever feels like the ride we are all on with the coronavirus.
We are all confined in the plane together, trapped as the plane is lashed with the lightning and thunder of the virus and the dangerous high-speed winds of the economic disaster. Perhaps you’ve noticed a few panicked plane personalities in your daily life.
This worst economic ride of our lives will not last forever.
In Florida, we will continue to rise through the storm, gradually getting better each month, but the clean flying will be October of this year. That may seem a long time from now, but it is not much more than four months from today.
In October, our winter guests will begin to return. These are active-lifestyle, upper-income, dual homeowners. They won’t want to stay in their house. They will be out shopping, eating and going to events.
They know they are not the at-risk health group in nursing homes. They are biking, walking, golf and tennis playing, young-at-heart winter guests. They will create a strong tail wind to speed our journey and lift us out of whatever turbulence remains.
Each month is getting a better ride than the last, as we rise up through the storm on our journey. Clean clear air for a smooth ride is in our sights.
David Dunn-Rankin is CEO of D-R Media, which owns the Winter Haven Sun, Four Corners News-Sun and Polk News-Sun in Polk County, as well as newspapers in Highlands, Lake and Sumter counties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.