While flying to and fro New York over Thanksgiving holiday, I was reminded once again of my extreme distaste for aviation travel. So extreme is my dislike, that I’m contemplating driving to anywhere I will go in the future, including across water. One of my goals in life is to design a bubble vehicle that can tread over the Atlantic. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ll just hoverboard over to Greece. It may take a lot of time, but I’m optimistic that I can do it.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed an illogical fear of flying in airplanes. Now don’t tell me that planes are safer than cars. I know that. But try telling me that while strapped to my seat and falling to the ground with you and 289 other people. I’ll gladly get in an argument with you during the roughly two minutes we have before we disintegrate and become one with the Earth.
As you can see, I have a morbid outlook on flying. Before and during a scheduled plane ride, it is difficult for me to not be consumed by a Woody Allen-esque
neurosis. This extreme anxiety have begun to push out any warm and fuzzy feelings I may have towards wherever my final destination is, and make me clam up into a ball of tension so tight, one could probably play Vivaldi on my muscles.
Where did this illogical fear come from?
Well, it’s not illogical, really. I mean, watching a bunch of airplanes fly into skyscrapers a few years back can definitely stir up a few nightmarish images before boarding a plane. Reading about how the free falling passengers of Pan Am Flight 103 passed out then came to right before they hit the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland certainly helps a little. Also, reading the Wikipedia list of “Aviation Accidents and Incidents” one bored evening kind of adds a lot to it (do yourself a favor and don’t read that link).
So what goes through my head while flying?
Well, typically while sitting with the other passengers at the gate before boarding the plane, I look around to see whose faces look like those of ones you’d see in the newspaper the next day. If no person’s face looks like that of one who is meant to die on a flight, I breathe a tiny sigh of relief.
Wow. Well, that statement obviously makes more sense in my head…
Then I size up the competency of the pilot and flight attendants while boarding the plane. If they seem confident and don’t look drunk, that helps a little. I did have a drunk pilot once who before taking off, broke the plane door and forgot to fill the plane up with gas. I know this because he went on a long commentary about his actions. An hour
long commentary. Finally, amidst the awkward glances passed between passengers and crew, silence came from the cock pit and an off-duty pilot rose from his seat and announced that he would now be flying the plane.
Once I board the plane and walk through the aisle to my seat, I make sure to smile at everyone. I do this so in case they were thinking of killing anyone on the plane with a plastic fork, it wouldn’t be me because I smiled at them earlier.
I then find my seat and immediately attempt to fall asleep. This way I won’t be scrutinizing the flight attendants and try to decipher if they’re masking sheer panic about a plane malfunction they aren’t telling us about. Usually I can fall asleep without the aid of drugs or alcohol. It’s not that I don’t want either. It’s just that I usually forget to take something before I go. Not that I have anything. Even if I had Xanax, I would have to take about 20 pills in order to feel anything.
Not being in a sedated slumber often means I wake up and focus on the turbulence that the plane may experiencing. I’m fairly certain any time the plane jolts that we’re about to embark on a out-of-control spiral down to Earth. If one looked closely enough, they’d often see foam building up in the corners of my mouth and tiny half moon nail prints dug into the arm rests.
It’s really unfortunate that flying has become such a hellish experience for me. It’s actually quite a lovely event. The few times I’m able to discard my Popeye face and peak out of the window, I usually enjoy what I see. Unless you’re an astronaut (and if an astronaut is reading my blog, fuck yeah!), there will be no other time a human is up in the sky. I think we often take for granted how incredible this experience is only because we’re using one sense while in an airplane- sight. I mean the other senses are used- like smelling your deodorant wearing off or touching the leg of the passenger next to you in order to feel some sort of bodily contact before what you are convinced are your last minutes alive- but those senses are used inside
of the plane. We don’t get to feel or hear or smell the sky we are barrelling through in a metal funnel of death.
I hope one day I can appreciate air travel, but until then, I’ll keep drawing up my bubble car.