This story is a part of the Stories She Told series.
Oprah inspired me to share a non-traumatizing nugget from my gap year. Did you see the latest SGN? The graduation one? She talked about that moment when an airplane bursts through grey clouds into a blue sky and you go “wow, I forgot there was blue sky even when it’s cloudy.” I cry.
My neighbor during my gap year in Berlin, Roland, was a commercial pilot. In May, he invited me to join him in the cockpit on a round-trip flight to Mallorca.
We got to the airport at 4:30 am. Roland dropped me at the terminal and said he would meet me on the plane.
An hour and a half later, I showed my ticket with “jump” printed where my seat number would be (questionable) to the flight desk and was whisked down the jetway past the tired families waiting to board, feeling like a celebrity.
Roland showed me the cockpit’s foldout seat that I would spend the next six hours in (the “jump seat”) and had me sit tight while he and his co-pilot, Martin, adjusted the route to the latest weather fax. Apparently above Berlin’s thick clouds were perfect blue skies.
Passengers boarded, Martin put away the maps and calculations, and I buckled myself in between my legs, around my hips, and over my shoulders. Roland gave me a headset so we could hear each other over the sound of the engines. We taxied and I listened to the flight attendants go over safety instructions in one ear, and the pilots talk about the struggling BVB in the other.
As we sped down the runway and tipped towards the sky, I was struck by two things:
First, how quiet the headset made the plane. Without the usual roar, takeoff was peaceful. Second, how much I could see. I was used to the limited scope of a passenger’s window, but from the cockpit (obviously) I saw so much more: the edge of the runway getting closer, a fox chasing a rabbit in the grass, the city before we were consumed by clouds, and the spectacular burst into the Blue Over Berlin once we got above them.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime, uninhibited view of the world. Bliss. Unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. Yet I often forget about it until someone (like Oprah) reminds me of it.
What is your sky like above the clouds? How often do you think of it?
This story has been modified from its original version. View the original on Instagram.