Thursday, June 16, 2016

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?


"Yeah, babe?"

"How tall is Mt. Everest?"

We are on the plane from Denver to Virginia.  This means I'm trapped in a middle seat between my two children, Josie asleep with her head on my lap, and Zeke looking out the window and pelting me with a three and a half hour barrage of questions.

Luckily, I'm up to speed on my random geography trivia.

"About 29,000 feet," I reply.

"How do you know that?"

"I don't know. I heard it or read it somewhere."

"Did you know that all of Mt. Everest would fit in the deepest trenches in the Pacific Ocean?"

"I did know that. I think the deepest Pacific trench is about 35,000 feet deep."

"That's really deep."

"It is."

He sits and thinks for a second, then starts studying the safety card from the seat pocket in front of him.


"Yeah, babe?"

"If the plane is safely on the ground, why do the people need to exit the plane on the slides?"

He's looking at the picture of an emergency landing on the ground.

"I don't understand the question.  If the plane crash-lands on the ground, why don't people just stay on the plane?"


"Why would they do that?  They're not just going to sit on the plane and not go anywhere.  There could be a fire or some other danger from the crash, or people could be hurt. They need to get off the plane."

He points to the "no" symbol over the hand holding a briefcase.

"What's that?"

"It's saying that if you have to do an emergency exit off the slides, don't take your luggage with you."

"Why not?"

"Because you don't want to take any extra time getting off the plane.  They want people to get off the plane as quickly as possible so that everyone can get to safety."

"In case the plane blows up?"


He looks out the window for a little while.


"Yeah, babe?"

"How fast can the fastest plane go?"

"I'm not sure.  I know it's at least a couple thousand miles per hour."

"Can this plane go that fast?"


"Why not?"

"Because it's not that kind of plane."

"What's the name of this plane?"

"Do you mean what airline is it?"


"It's United."

"Is that the airline that you don't like?"

"No, that's Frontier."

"Was that the airline that we took when we missed the plane?"

"We didn't miss that plane.  We got on that plane."

"Because you pitched a fit, right?"  He smiles.


"How long does it take for this plane to go one mile?"

I do some quick calculations in my head.  "I think about 7 or 8 seconds."

"What if the wing falls off the plane?"

"That would be bad. We would crash."

"It's a really clear day today.  Look how far we can see."


"Is everything that we can see right now all one whole state?"

"I don't know. I don't know exactly where we are. But probably not. States are pretty big.  What we can see is most likely much smaller than a whole state."

"What river is that?"

"I don't know.  I don't know what we're flying over right now."

He's quiet for about a minute.


"Yeah, babe?"

"Did you know that when a cheetah is running and is fully stretched out with its legs off the ground, it's 20 feet long?"

"I did know that. I think you told me that."

He starts looking at his book, which is about surviving different kinds of natural disasters.  It's got a picture from the Japanese tsunami of 2011 on the cover.  It shows the water overtaking cars and trucks and everything else.


"Yeah, babe?"

"Was there someone in that truck?"


"Is he dead?"

"I don't know. Probably."

"What about that car? Is that guy dead?"

"I don't know. Probably."

"Are those mountains we're flying over right now?"


"Which mountains are they?"

"Probably the Appalachians."

"How do you know?"

"I'm guessing based on how long we've been on the plane."

"How tall are they?"

"I'm not sure.  They're not as tall as the mountains in Colorado."

"You mean the Rocky Mountains?"


"They look different.  Not jagged-y."

"That's because they're much older mountains. As mountains age, they erode and smooth out."

"What's the shortest mountain in the world?"

This one totally stumps me.  "I don't know, honey."

"How tall is it?"

"I don't know. I don't know how tall land has to be to qualify as a mountain."

"Is it five feet?"

"I'm assuming it's higher than that. Five feet is barely a hill."

"Is it ten feet?"

"More than that."

"What's the shortest mountain called?"

"Sweetie, I have no idea."

Short break in the action.


"Yeah, babe?"

"Are we turning right now?"


"What if the plane gets sucked up into space?"

"That would be bad."


At this point, I start to laugh. I cover my face with my hands and I can't stop laughing. The guy in front of us, who has overheard all of this, looks back at me and smiles and starts laughing as well.

"You're doing great," he says.

I'm overwhelmed with a sense of deja vu.

Zeke reminds me so, so much of my brother Sam.  Sam is one of my favorite people in the world, partly because he is so inquisitive and thinks about things in such interesting ways.  But as a kid, when my family was travelling, we would argue over who had to sit next to Sam on long flights, because he never stopped talking and asking questions.

Later, I'm sitting with my mother at her kitchen table, telling her about the flight.  When I relay the question about the shortest mountain, she says, "why didn't you just make something up?  Just make up a name.  'The shortest mountain is Mt. Tiny' or something like that."

I can't believe that didn't occur to me.  But then again, she raised Sam.  She knows.  And it probably didn't occur to her the first time, either.

This whole process is a learning curve.  But a highly entertaining one.


  1. Anonymous3:47 PM

    This made me laugh. I have a two year old, and while his questions are not quite as advanced, they are as plentiful. "Mama, why do I have shoulders? Why did I poop? Can the baby eat food?" I could use some of your mom's tricks as well.