A few weeks ago, I had breakfast with a friend at a restaurant in South Gate. After breakfast, we were in the parking lot, saying our goodbyes and all the pleasantries, when all of a sudden she asked me, “What’s that noise?”
“Yes, the planes!”
“Oh yeah, I live under the approach to LAX.”
“So you’ve heard this every day of your life?”
“Yeah, but it’s not bad. You get used to it. Besides, I don’t live in Lennox, where the planes are about a hundred feet above.”
Growing up with it, I rarely notice the planes flying above. The only times I take notice is when the planes fly too low, people point it out, or I stare at the sky. It’s the crazy neighbor who makes noise throughout the day. They fly above about every two minutes, and it’s only the planes that land in the northern runways (southern runway planes fly along Imperial Boulevard).
It’s one of those constants of living in South Gate: planes flying above every two or three minutes, train horns at 11 p.m. I don’t notice it much, but it’s one of those small details that visitors point out when they know where I live.
“How can you put up with the noise?”
“I don’t notice it. They’re up there and I’m down here. That’s just how it is.”
It’s true, I don’t notice it. The planes are high enough that buildings don’t rumble, and in my lifetime, there’s been one plane mishap in South Gate (in the late 1990s, a plane lost its landing gear and it landed on Firestone and Madison, across the street from St. Helen’s Catholic Church).
When I fly into LAX, I almost always have a window seat so I can see below me and figure out where I am. The passengers near me may think I’m crazy, but I spend the last ten minutes of a flight staring out the window and naming landmarks under my breath.
“That’s Rose Hills (can only tell at night)… the 605 and San Gabriel river… Oh, there’s the L.A. River!… the 710… Atlantic… South Gate Middle School… South Gate High School, My house… the 110… Just a few more minutes!”
Rubber hits asphalt. Firm ground once again.
Whether it’s a one-hour flight from San Francisco, three-hour flight from Guadalajara, or a six-hour transcontinental flight, there’s nothing that I like more than looking at the city from above.