Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Under Pressure

I remembered to take my oxymeter onto the plane yesterday for my trip home from San Francisco to Seattle. True to predictions, weather in Santa Cruz was pretty miserable. There's nothing sadder than walking along a closed amusement park boardwalk in savage rain and blistering cold, feeling your holiday shoes squelch and your pants lengthen with the weight of the water as they soak, until with every step your heels grind sopping corduroy into the puddles. But there's really nothing better than coming in out of the rain to a warm house full of dear friends, lots of tasty food, three little girls ages 1, 2 ½ , and 5, and a bottle of Bailey's.

Anyway, I had heard that cabin pressurization wasn't complete to sea level air pressure, and indeed that wasn't surprising, because, after all, our ears to pop due to elevation changes as we rise and fall sink. According to Wikipedia, for a plane planning to fly at 40,000 feet, cabin air pressure is set at about 8,000 feet during the flight. So I wanted to see how my oxygen levels were—after all, 8,000 feet is much higher than where I live (which is 180 feet).

They were a little low—about 92. I then took several deep, purposeful breaths, and my levels rose back to 98. L then tried it, and was also 92 (she was briefly 88, but I think that was a mis-read). Then L wanted to know what would happen if, instead of taking slow breaths, I panted. I should point out that I was sitting in the middle seat. So I put the oxymeter back on my finger and started to pant. I had panted for about a minute when the young man seated next to me—right next to me, of course—gave me a sidelong glance, obviously trying to be subtle about it, but obviously concerned that I was having some sort of medical emergency. L and I burst out laughing and I put away my handy little gadget, and pulled out my other handy little gadgets—my iPod, and my noise reducing headphones. I settled in for a pleasant hour and a half of new music. L, alas, was bombarded for the duration of the flight by loud, high-pitched, meaningless, high school drivel chirped endlessly by the person sitting just behind her. I only had to listen to it for about 10 minutes when I had to turn off my headphones, and I'm amazed L didn't explode with frustration. Honestly, girl, even your friends don't care, let alone all the people in a 30-foot radius.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "1/2" is indeed important.