It’s 38 degrees and 3:45 in the morning. I am feeding suitcases and bags into a Boeing 737 via a belt loader — a conveyor belt on wheels. The loader slowly carries them up to my colleague who sits just inside the forward cargo hold.
|I toss an odd-sized piece of luggage onto the belt. The move tightens my 50-something year-old back, shock-signaling a warning.
My first week on the job and my body is already pleading me back to an office, a nice warm cubicle somewhere with coffee down the hall.
I throw another bag. Above me passengers seem to glow as they settle inside the warm well-lit cabin, oblivious to my pain.
|The sup yells “let’s go.” to us. He screams it again, trying to be heard above the mighty spooling engines and through our ear protection. Things are often repeatedly incessantly on the ramp until the listener signals understanding. Here we are all a little deaf.
Finally, the choreography begins. The tow-bar guy connects the tow bar to the aircraft’s front landing gear and the sup gets into the tug. We fan out to wing walk. Inertia is overcome and the tons of steel begin to push back away from the terminal.
|The tow bar is released, and the tug moves back and away from the aircraft. Its sentient cargo stir.
Like war drums, the engines scream louder and louder as we scurry back to the terminal’s safety.
The engines are now too dangerous for us to be near. They scream their warning, blasting cold morning air more and more forcefully until the 5:45 begins to roll down the empty runway.
Soon, nearby low-rent neighborhoods will get their wake up call. The mighty Phoenix has risen, and it will continue to do so eight more times today.