Floaty Military Thing Invalidates All Thinking

I’d been driving north in the early afternoon last Friday (as of now, three days ago) between Coupeville and Oak Harbor, where a Naval Air base dominates the northern half of Whidbey Island both economically and demographically. To see military aircraft of different ages, from the very new to the old-but-still-flying, particularly this close to Oak Harbor, and in close proximity, is normal. There’s nothing in the least unusual about that. But when I saw a large military transport jet, deep gray-green, looking to be a newer sort and eerily hanging over the woods alongside the highway, it caught my eye for two reasons: first, I don’t normally see that large of an airplane along that particular route, especially flying that low (it was only a hundred or so yards above the treeline), though I couldn’t say that it never happens; but secondly, and most strangely, because it hardly seemed to be moving at all. It may not have been moving. It looked as though it simply floated over the forest.

I was driving in the opposite direction and moved past in relation to it, so any movement seemed like it could easily have been that of me going past at fifty miles an hour while it stood still in the air. If it flew (as opposed to simply floating like some kind of blimp) it hardly seemed to go even ten miles an hour. Also, I couldn’t hear the sound of any jets. My car stereo was up, not so very loud – enough to mask the ordinary sounds of the road – though I wouldn’t think a large military jet flying so close by would be overwhelmed by it, not hardly. It had a single, white, blinking light at the bottom of its fuselage. This for some reason also struck me as odd, or significant somehow, this single, plain light. Otherwise, it had no running lights that I could see.

I craned my neck around to watch it not moving as I passed nearby and under, looking as closely at it as I safely could in the highway traffic. I thought to pull off to the side, but there wasn’t enough of a shoulder to do it safely. I still wish that I had.

This sighting bothers me, for a few reasons. The obvious conclusion is that it is likely not a sighting of anything all that unusual. This was likely just some conventional military jet transport with vertical lift technology. The fact that it was so quiet is strange, certainly, but also not inexplicable. Perhaps jet technology has been developed that makes that little noise. I’ve seen fighters pass close over the I-5 freeway near Fort Lewis that I could scarcely hear from inside a car. If that’s all this was, I have no problem with that; I feel no need to try and spin something exotic out of the mundane. But the image of the thing haunts me, because there was something just wrong enough about it (and just public enough also, hovering that close to the highway) that I had to notice, and enough about it explicable enough, without any more than the common knowledge of military technology, that I also have to dismiss it, and I can’t escape this feeling that somebody is playing with me, because I am now stuck so firmly in this liminal zone of how I think of this thing. I wanted to write this up immediately, I was that intrigued by what I saw, but at the same time I keep thinking, it’s nothing, it’s nothing, don’t make a fool of yourself, tilting at windmills and the like. To post this is to invalidate the point of this site by making something out of nothing. But not to post it is to invalidate this work also, to communicate these moments of liminal strangeness.

Shortly after posting this, in the Oak Harbor coffee shop where I was working, in a nearby conversation that I couldn't help overhearing a man said, "I've been tilting at windmills..." Quixote lives.

Further Addendum:
Before seeing the strangely floating jet airplane last Friday (now one week ago, exactly, as I write this) I’d gone to the gym in Coupeville, and in its small parking lot, I noticed that the minivan I’d parked next to had one flat tire in back. It could’ve been somebody’s car from the physical therapy office that shared the building, but turned out to be that of the older woman inside, the only other person at the gym just then. She came outside and I showed it to her, and we hovered around her van for a few minutes, trying to figure out what to do about it. We finally decided that calling AAA was probably the best thing. So I went on inside and had my workout, then found her still waiting in her van when I came out again. She told me that several people had stopped to tell her about the flat tire while she’d been waiting – a nice gesture, but by now she’d more than gotten the point. The tow truck should be along in a few more minutes, she said.

I got into my car and drove on to Oak Harbor, and it was along the way that I saw what I described above. I wondered at the time if there was some kind of connection between these things: the flat tire, my telling the old woman about it, and then this. It seemed reaching to look for any causal relationship, but the feeling that there was some connection nagged at me.

So when I came to the gym again, exactly one week later, that same older woman was there, cycling on one of the stationary bicycles beside the desk as I signed in. She told me that after waiting for the tow truck to come that day, after all those people also told her about the flat she now knew pretty well that she had, and several more hours spent at or around the tire shop, getting the flat fixed, that nobody could find anything wrong with the tire, other than it was flat, neither the tow truck driver nor the repairmen at the shop. Unless someone had come along and let the air out as a prank, the tire had gone spontaneously flat for no reason they could see.

This only added to my uneasy feeling that there was some kind of set-up, that the one thing led toward the other, with my awareness at the pivot point.