I just can’t get over it. There has been a plane missing for twelve days. And that last blip of the radar has been heard around the world.
I know random world events aren’t my usual cup of tea on here, but it can’t be helped. And after reading articles from all over the communicationsphere, I’m profoundly freaked out. First there was a missing plane with no distress signal, sign of bad weather, or mechanical trouble. Then some mention of debris in the Pacific. Now the media has latched onto the eerie lack of passengers’ cell phone activity. The fact-proven details of the flight are few: on March 8th, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, with 239 lives on board, lost contact. The plane took off east towards Beijing, the transponder was turned off, the plane was then tracked completely changing course, and eventually was lost even to military radar over the Indian Ocean. But the question still bouncing around my head was one of the first, “Why did the transponder stop transmitting?”
An unsettling query with only a few answers, the most common being a hijacking. Which, considering the alternative of a Lost-esque crash on a magically moving island-creature-afterlife deal, seems frighteningly likely. I could wax paranoid for hours of conspiracy theorizing, but CNN is the one paid to do that. So I’ll move on. What I would like to know instead, dearest FAA and all post-9/11 flight codemakers, is this: not why, but how is it POSSIBLE for a transmitter to stop working? Not meteorites, engine explosion, or someone actually turning it off– I mean how is it that the transmitters were constructed in a way that allows them to ever turn off in the first place?
My new housemate’s phone was stolen when she was moving her stuff in this past weekend. After spending the day refreshing Verizon’s GPS Locator page, she was at her wits’ end. I thought the entire point of having GPS technology in my phone was for this exact reason. If some delinquent jacks my phone, I want to be able to lojack their ass. My house was once broken into, and the cops eventually found the kid by tracing the IP address of the stolen X-Box he was playing. So how can the Apple Geniuses not turn on an internal GPS trigger and find my roommate’s phone? Answer: the doorstop who stole it just turned off her phone. Next question: why hasn’t Apple created a GPS locator that intrinsically cannot be disabled by hooligans simply turning it off?
In a much grander and critical scale, how can it be that a Boeing 777 with hundreds of lives on board has disappeared? This isn’t 1937, and science has come a long way since Amelia and her Lockheed Electra went missing. If we had the technology for my mom to track me down via cellphone GPS at a high school party ten years ago, then the joined forces of global intelligence– the CIA, NSA, Interpol, Chinese intelligence, and God knows what other cloak-and-dagger shit that goes on out there– should be able to locate one rather large plane.
Apparently we missed the lesson with Flight 447. It has been five years since they went down in the first “mysterious tragedy”, à la Titanic hubris. Yet, we still did not adjust and figure a better way to track our metal birds. Do you know how far technology has come just in the past decade? The iPad was invented, with a new one each year. The iPhone 4, now -5, birthed Siri. Our phones tell jokes. Google is taking us further into Jetsons’ territory with their driverless car and Google Glass, a undeniably disturbing-yet-incredible spyware eyewear that Googles someone you look at by facial recognition. In 2009, as Flight 447 crashed, the NSA was kick starting a new program: developing the ability to record every cell phone conversation in a country for an entire month. As of yesterday, reports claim success. And as of today, the fates of 239 people on Flight 370 are still a mystery. You would think Apple, Google, or the NSA would have spent one day configuring a solution to losing an entire plane. Maybe hidden ones even the pilots cannot find and disable?
But they haven’t. When I look into the post-9/11 flight regulations and practices, they are mostly human-threat-based. Sky marshalls, TSA monsters, and no-fly lists. Invasive body searches toeing borderline rape. I remember the conversation on the black box location and security, and reinforced cockpits. So, in an age where we can pick up a phone to call the other side of the world, tin boxes orbiting space, and 20,000 leagues under the sea, I do have one answer. It hasn’t occurred to anyone to install GPS locators in every single plane as a regulation safety standard.
The biggest difference between Flights 447 and 370 is that one simply crashed. If today’s reports of debris turn out true, and MH370 crashed as well, there is still the matter of human action to turn off the transponder and turn the plane completely around. What this says to me: even if MH370 crashed somewhere, it offers a new option to terrorists. The fear is building and conspiracy theories run rampant. My friend Sally thinks it’s the North Koreans, and Abigail keeps talking about episodes of 24. Junior just gets quiet. Paranoia abounds. There were a lot of changes made, once 9/11 introduced the concept of weaponized planes. Is this the next step? Are we being introduced to an even deeper level of plane weaponization? Up until now, it has only occurred to us that, if a plane were hijacked for terroristic purposes, then naturally it would be used immediately while in-air. Because it would be impossible for terrorists to steal an entire damn plane to literally “save for later”. Right?
Regardless of the plot, this story has a sad ending. If it eventually comes to light that Flight 370 has been lost at sea, it is already sure to be mourned worldwide. Loved ones and strangers alike have flooded Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, and the blogosphere with their keening cries. Even if we never learn of their fate, 239 people have disappeared from their lives, families, and world. Frightfully, without a trace more than a last radar blip, the world wonders for lack of answers. We are left in a void of mystery, like many tragedies throughout time, asking ‘why?’, ‘what happened?’, ‘where are you?’ The only record in place of goodbye is the last transmission from the co-pilot, before the transponder was switched off: “All right, good night.”
What I would like to end with is not a question, but a command. To the combined scientific and intelligence communities: get your shit together. Stop creating another damn smartphone or bomb for one day– one single day– and figure out the how, where, and what of GPS locators on every plane. Chat with the FAA and airlines, they’ll be down with this. Work together; please. We have thousands of people hurtling through the air in tin cans every second; how about we make it so their families can properly grieve, in case one fails. Or worse, for when the really bad guys are one day as smart as you and start stealing them.
What a question!
Oh buddy, am I in trouble.
It has now been six months since I last wrote [refresher: Luck of the Irish]– eep! Yes, I’m still alive, kicking ass, and taking names [i.e. job applications]. Sorry about that. I could blame work, friends, job hunting, or Martian invasions, but we all know the reason: a boy. [Man?] Isn’t that always the reason! But I had half-finished this article, and it stays true. So let’s jump back to the end of the summer, and roughly two months into our relationship.
Two months: my most common expiration date. I’ve only ever dated someone for longer once before, my only titled ‘boyfriend’. But just that week, my Mick was goofing with my hand, gave me a look, and told me my claddagh was facing the wrong way.
Side note: the claddagh, commonly called the Irish Love ring, is our symbol for true love. I prefer not to call it the Wedding ring, because my grandma told me all good Irish girls wear one; I have since age 16. It is fashioned of a pure heart clasped in the hands of friendship and crowned with loyalty. There are four ways to wear the ring, each with its own meaning. On your right hand, the heart facing out [so others can see the shape properly] tells others you are unattached; facing in means your heart is taken in a committed relationship. The left hand out says engaged, and in is married. Only supposed to be worn on the ring finger. [Duh.] The choice of metal and stone used mean anything from sterling strength, heart of gold, or diamond in the rough. Personally, I go for silver with a heart of green. The color of passion, strength, and Ireland. A perfect claddagh.
Which is now turned in. I’d said it only turns for monogamous relationships, and I’m clearly dating a dozen other guys. Right? [Circle: false.] I later turned it in, quietly beaming. Last night, he noticed again, “It looks like a much better fit this way.”
So that’s that. A subtle answer from a simple man.
When I say ‘simple’, it is meant as the most genuine admiration possible. It is difficult to finish this description of Mick from that earlier perspective, with six months more experience now. But I’ll tell you, I was absolutely starred. He is the kind of strong, good person you don’t meet often. He is a five-year Army veteran of both wars, medically discharged and half-homesick for his military life. We initially met only six months after he got out, he was still adjusting to civilian life when he started working at my Bar. He deserves a medal for being the first coworker I’ve dated; should I have said for ‘War Hero’? Well, the valiant effort succeeded. Mission Accomplished.
The effort was mine. True to form, I do believe I seduced him. He was new, an unusual novelty. Tall, broad, attractive in that solid Irish way. A real man. Maybe a bit withdrawn, a little quiet. I don’t hear it often anymore, but when he did speak up, it was with a slight lisp. Being me, I’d call him out in the kitchen for his silence. Finally, he joked that he was quiet to start, but won’t shut up once he gets going. Nearly a year later, I can vouch for that.
So I always had this running Hangman game with the sous chef during slow times at the Bar. It helped keep me from sticking my hand in boiling oil out of boredom. Trying to be inclusive, I pulled Mick into the game, only to find out he is seriously dyslexic. I haven’t figured out if the lisp is from the dyslexia, his severe war injuries, or a combination of all three. All I know is that from a cute, withdrawn veteran… it was rather endearing. So I’d invite him out with the Teambuilders to find trouble. Sometimes it worked; it was hard for him, living out in the boonies without a car. Then one night, I offered the couch instead of his trek home.
I have never been so caught up in a whirlwind. Though we kept it professional at work, all I wanted to do was grab him. After a month, everyone knew. After two, we were exclusive. He called me his best friend, the best thing to hear from your boyfriend. After three, we met the families. A bit early for the judgment, but still another first for me. The first night I met one of his best friends, he told me he had never seen Mick like this. The teasing over him loving me was received with mixed emotions, and made me blush to my Irish roots. After that, we essentially lived together. He bought me a new claddagh for Christmas.
Word-for-word what I wrote six months ago:
“So in the weirdest progression possible, I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love with him. Which is terrifying. I’ve never said that about anyone before. And definitely haven’t said it to anyone. He’s so uninhibited and honest, it makes me shy sometimes. But I’m working on the nerve to say it first. I think. Oh, lordy.”
Though it was rough, I did say it first. And it scared him. A little [lot] tipsy [drunk], it sort of slipped out. He said to not say that word; everything goes to shit after it happens. I was in shock; it was jumping off a cliff and not knowing if I’d be caught when the fall ended. I had never said ‘I love you’ to anyone before. I told him so. It was important for me to say it, even if he couldn’t. I only speak what I mean, so I couldn’t fault him for not saying something he didn’t feel.
The first time he did, a week later, drunk and still scared, I almost cried.
So here I am, ten months later, and I love him. In the immortal words of one of my favorite artists, in my absolute favorite song…. he’s got a hold on me.