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Usually I'm an optimist - Bob Paslay

I pulled over on Jonesboro Road and just sat there watching the skies. The gray and white clouds were painted against the blue sky and the early afternoon was warm as I peered at the sky. There was one and then another and then a third. Silver birds glinting against the sun's reflection, coming in sooth and powerful as they headed for Hartsfield-Jackson.

There is something kid-like that I think will never go away, the fun of watching planes taking off and landing. I fix my eyes on one and watch it get closer and closer until it flies overhead, its wheels locked down and ready to set down.

This is truly poetry in motion, a ballet of technology and it is thrilling to see three or four in the skies at the same time.

I guess because I am getting ready in a couple of weeks to fly again that I am thinking about it. I have said many times that I am afraid to fly and I am not sure why flying more doesn't make this phobia go away. There is something safe about watching the big sleek birds fly over and land, safe because I am on the ground and not in them.

Recently on a trip, we were flying over the clouds and rocking and shaking. The pilot suspended in-flight service and said he had asked for permission to climb 2,000 more feet above the clouds and was denied this permission, so we would have to just endure some turbulence.

I am such an optimist usually that it doesn't make sense that I take the pessimistic view that the plane is going to fall out of the sky. Deep down I know the planes have been stress tested and that the pilots and co-pilots have flown so much they have total control of the situation. If I didn't have this deep-seeded knowledge I would never get on another plane.

A colleague, who was once a flight attendant, told me there is a point of taking off and landing that is like a point of no return, a spot at which you must go for it. On a recent trip back from Europe she said she was watching as the plane was landing and the pilot missed this mark on the runway. And when the wheels did touch down he was mightily putting on the reverse thrusters to stop it in time.

I always thought I wanted to know more about the process and would feel safer when we start rocking and rolling in choppy weather. But now I am not sure.

I wish I could get my usual optimism to seep over into my flying. For some reason I can walk in deserted, dark, not so safe areas and never think anything is going to happen to me. I go to bed never thinking that I won't wake up. But flying is one area of pessimism. Well, almost my only area.

A friend of mine, a student at Georgia Tech who turned me onto science fiction and who I bounce my crazy ideas off, told me how "Lord of the Rings" was going to win the best picture award.

I prepared him for the worst, told him about how the people who vote on the Academy Awards half the time never see the movies, how Hollywood hates a winner and often does the wrong thing.

I just knew Hollywood would give "Cold Mountain" the best picture award. He proceeded to tell me why LOTR would win, the acting, the cinematography. If it lost, a lot of people would be upset because it deserved to win.

I can happily report that his optimism was right and my pessimism was wrong. Ah, youth, when all things were possible, when naivete was a good thing. Yikes, am I really becoming jaded in my old age? No, just a few missteps on my yellow brick road.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor for the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com.