They call it the Magic Hour. It’s the time of day when the sun is low on the horizon, and its heavily refracted rays fall with a gentle touch, like the caress of a lover. Movie directors love to shoot during the Magic Hour because people and things tend to glow in that soft light.
This afternoon I went for a walk during the Magic Hour, and saw some interesting things.
Once I took a business trip with a colleague that required us to fly to Texas. We sat next to each other on the flight, and when the plane encountered mild turbulence he suddenly locked my forearm in a death grip. His face was white and his eyes were panicky, and I realized he was terrified.
The simple act of flying, an everyday method of transportation in our modern world, manages to incorporate an awful lot of fears and phobias. There are people who are terrified that the plane might crash, but there are subtle distinctions in the true nature of their fears. Some are just afraid of dying in a blazing fireball, but others are scared of the moments of terror they might feel as the plane hurtles toward the ground — and still others are concerned that they haven’t told their loved ones left behind how they truly felt, or how their deaths might affect their families.
The crash-related fears only scratch the surface, of course. For the mysophobes among us, a plane flight must be like their own private hell, where every surface has been touched by unknown, germ-ridden people, the common bathroom is a cauldron of contamination, and even the recycled air you must breathe is carrying viruses, bacteria, and microbes coughed out by fellow passengers. Claustrophobes must hate the thought of being locked into a crowded metal tube of people, particularly when they board one of those dinky regional planes. Xenophobes cringe at being seated next to complete strangers, with their odd smells and sounds and efforts to hold awkward conversations.
Me, I worry about being late for the plane — that I won’t make it to the airport on time, or that the check-in lines or the security lines will be overwhelming and I’ll miss my flight. Others worry about the flight itself; I worry about not making it onto the germ-infested, stranger-filled tube of death.