Early morning, I was checking in to my American Airlines flight to Austin at one of those kiosks and groggily pressing thru the options on the touch screen, when I got jolted out of my half asleep stupor by what I saw.
The screen that would let me check in my bag said that first two bags were free for me (I had only one) but the third one would cost $150 !!!
$150! That is nearly the price for a round trip domestic flight!! They really, really do not want you to bring in a third bag, I mused.
Later, I was wondering about something… ever since the regime of pay-for-checked-in-bag came, I assume the cargo load must have gone down. But the planes are still the same. So, what do they do with the extra space? (You will be surprised how such non-consequential questions can keep me worried 🙂 ).
In any case, finally I settled down in my airplane seat and opened up the USA Today newspaper on my iPad. And right on the first page was this news….
I think I got my answer!!
The flight took off from Atlanta airport on Runway 7 bearing an easterly direction. For as much as I fly every week, a plane taking off is still something that mesmerizes me. I cannot help but look outside as the buildings pick up speed running past us the other way and then in one big heave as the plane pulls it nose up, suddenly all the vibrations go away and those buildings keep running away – albeit at an angle – and off we go!
Last Monday as we took off, you could get a perfect bird’s eye view of the whole Atlanta and metro area trying to shake off its Monday morning blues under that canopy of crystal clear blue sky. Down below was the continuous rug of velvet green treetops – interrupted by long strips of roads and occasional buildings poking their heads curiously out of the tree-lines.
And then there was that weird looking cloud. It was very low lying. Very thin and meandering. Totally static. It was like somebody put some long yarn of cotton there and forgot to remove it. For a minute I kept looking at it – convinced that it was smoke. My eyes roved anon looking for a chimney from some factory or perhaps a kiln.
The plane, at that point, banked hard to the left and settled in a north by north west direction. So much so the better – since that would get us closer to that strip of a cloud. I was hoping to find that elusive chimney. Just as we aligned ourselves to the cloud – something else caught my eye. Directly below the cloud. There was our Chattahoochee river!! What is more, the cloud shape was an eerie replica of the river. It ran exactly parallel to the river – just a little higher!!
In a moment, the puzzle was solved!! The water vapor escaping from the surface of the river could not escape much. It was so cold that it condensed into a cloud close to the ground – maybe a few thousand feet high – and stuck together without a lot of diffusion for the exact same reason. As a result, there was the river below – and the replica cloud above!!
(Zoom in to the picture to see the river)
Grew up as a child in India learning that Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world. That would be the dark building in the middle with two spires.
Of course, a lot has changed now. It is called the Willis Tower now and is only the 16th tallest building in the world. It is still the second highest in the Western Hemisphere, I believe. Just goes to show the crazy amount of infrastructure development that has happened in Asia.