DAY 26: Last Day in London/First Night in Berlin
Time to move on. Packed my belongings. Finished off whatever groceries remained. And I was on my way to Berlin. Bus to Finsbury Park station. Underground Victoria tram to King’s Cross station. St. Pancras station to London Gatwick airport. Arrived at the gate on time but naturally the flight was delayed. This appeared to be a common occurrence associated with EasyJet airlines. The plane didn’t leave the runway for over an hour after boarding.
Pleasant flight until the gray clouds thickened around us coming into Germany. No turbulence though. Or rain. Just gray. I kept my eyes trained outside and then a flash. A gargantuan lightning strike emerged from the sky 150 feet away from the plane’s left wing. I don’t scare easy on planes anymore. I’ve always felt more unsafe riding in the shared shuttle vans on the way to the airport than anything.
Riding in an airplane you accept that for the duration of your flight that two pilots, whom you’ve never laid eyes on, are holding your life in their hands 30,000 feet above the Earth’s surface. Fly enough times and that isn’t a thought that crosses your mind. But there’s not a position that feels quite as helpless as being in that elevated seat in the middle of a lightning storm. Now I fully comprehended the reasons for our delay; I would’ve gladly waited at the gate back in London had I known this was coming.
For the next 20-minutes of our descent harsh flashes of light erupted above us in thick gray cloud coverage. I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination; Organized religion has never made sense to me in relation to spirituality. On the other hand I don’t entirely discount the idea of an existence after death. It feels too easy for it to solely be an end to life. Once death comes knocking, perhaps based on how you’ve lived your life, you choose to ascend or cease to exist.
I thought about all of this until we finally landed safely on the runway. Death lingers in the mind during these moments of terror. Whispering in your ear. We pulled up to the gate but we couldn’t leave the plane yet. One of the stewardesses announced over the speakers: “Sorry for the inconvenience, ladies and gentlemen. The ground crew has been temporarily suspended until the storm calms down.”
Eventually they let us off. Figured out which train I needed to board and made it as the doors were closing. I arrived in the city of Berlin at 11:30 PM. Now I needed to orient myself with the streets. Without a GPS or a map. In the pitch dark of night. But I didn’t feel in danger. Berlin felt safe. I instantly liked how spaced out the buildings were. Despite some random areas reeking of human escrement, I was already enjoying this place. It didn’t take long for me to wrap my head around the area and find my new “home”.
I researched later the likelihood of an airplane crash from a lightning storm. It hasn’t happened since 1967. Most aircrafts since that awful incident have been skinned with aluminum, which excels at conducting electricity. It keeps the lightning strikes on the exterior of the plane away from important compartments like the fuel tank or engine. That’s why you’ll never see any gaps in the skin of an airplane; Like a distraction for the lightning from anything that might cause any devastating damage. Further developments have only improved this and continue to do so. Airplanes are still the safest way to fly and I have no intention of not flying on one again after this.