I’m not a good flyer…there, I’ve said it.
Flying blows, and yet I get myself to do it several times a year through a series of ritualistic OCD behaviors I have developed that to allow me to survive the process without actually jumping from the plane with a parachute I impulsively make out of complimentary fleece blankets sewn together with strands of my hair. So let me take you for a ride inside of my head, wrapped inside an airplane, that magically defies gravity, surrounded by strangers who are going to be sharing my 1/2 inch-wide arm rest.
My biggest fear is flying over large bodies of water. Yeah I’m looking at you Pacific Ocean, you plus-sized liquid abyss! There is something particularly nerve-racking about the so-called “water landing” that this Pisces is not envisioning as some aquatic homecoming where I am rescued by dolphins and taken to my tropical paradise to live forever with Sawyer from LOST.
But, First thing’s first: Let’s just pop that trusty Ativan. Because for me, chemicals are the key to preventing a total meltdown should something like turbulence occur or even worse – the dreaded 7 foot tall person who smells like onions sits next to me This actually happened). The Ativan takes about 20 min to kick in and is usually doing the good lord’s work by the time I get to check point charlie (aka the departures curb).
Hello people in the Southwest check-in line, is it so hard to have things ready once you actually get to the counter? No? Oh then excuse me while we all wait for you to scream at each family member about who’s job it was to have everyone’s IDs ready and in the proper hands during the 20 min you were standing in the same exact line as everyone else!?! My flight is only leaving in 30 min, but whatevs… I’m sure I can just sleep on one of those super comfortable non-reclining chairs while waiting to catch the next flight…in 12-18 hours.
Cue the first of my many anxiety attacks today.
Next and just as important are the ear buds placed in my head and playing the appropriate music to accompany my travels. The playlist varies depending on many factors. Duration, weather, if I am traveling alone, and time of day. So if I am traveling cross country with my husband during the summer, it will be a Alternative rock mix. Alone flying over the Rockies in a snow storm- there will be the calming sounds of my “Mellow Mix” where I figure If I am to die on this flight, I will need my pearly gates entrance music, and in my mind Heaven sounds a lot like Enya’s Orinoco Flow.
This week’s flight is a short jump form Denver to Boise over the Rockies, also known as “hang on to your guts as you drop 400 feet out of the sky repeatedly for a solid 2o minuets”. This one calls for my Don’t Even THINK of Striking Up a Conversation With Me” mix which includes the likes of Phantogram, Meg Myers, Iggy Azalea, Ivy Levin, Lana Del Rey and an TV episode of Hannibal. Maybe if people see me watching a madman who serves up humans as fine cuisine, all while dressed in Armani, then they will at least be too disturbed to try and suck me into a rant about the lack of leg room on coach.
Standing in the endless Disneyland style winding maze with hundreds of strangers only inches from me is a recipe for bacteria and bad manners. I am pretty convinced that every virus I have suffered in my life was contracted from a line I had to stand in alongside other shuffling, mouth breathing, humans. There is always a couple spooning and slobbering their way through the line who are in no apparent hurry, because their love is too just too intense to remember that we need to keep advancing in a forwardly motion. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make…oh shit! just got caught staring at The reenactment of Endless Love, and must now quickly avert my eyes. Aaaaaand now I’m the weirdo.
Interacting with the TSA makes my pulse races for no logical reason…never sure why but somehow I am suddenly convinced that I will be taken to that side room and strip searched. It’s never happened and there is no reason it should, but still, I have feared it ever since I was pulled aside that time in 2004 for wearing a baggy sweatshirt that could have possibly been transporting an entire cell of terrorist midgets.
Once waived through, it’s time to start my juggling monkey act to frantically de-shoe, separate my phone from my ipad, take off belt, triple check for liquids exceeding 3 oz in my purse, take off jacket, realize one bin isn’t enough, piss of people behind me as I grab another bin, put it all on the cool rolly-polly conveyor belt, consider for split second of jumping on neat-o conveyor belt and hitch a ride through the X-ray machine, deciding against it, then wait barefoot while they screen each bag suspiciously for contra-band or the a “hypothetical” pair of scissors I may or may not have accidentally smuggled undetected through 2 airports in 2009. This frantic scene resembles something between the I Love Lucy Candy factory episode and an old Benny Hill montage.
I freeze in place as I am now faced with the Star Trek-ish rotating X ray machine that shows your naked body to the that guy who’s job is to judge me for my lack of muscle tone and non-existent thigh gap. All while desperately trying not to scream out loud, “I broke my arm this winter and couldn’t work out for 3 months. I am giving up carbs for summer I promise!”
After silently telling myself that X-rays are no worse that 20 min of life-giving sunshine, and that it did not plant a radioactive seed into my spleen, my bag is flagged for search. Apparently my lip gloss has caught the attention of homeland security and I will be traveling sans one tube of Clinique raspberry Superbalm for the next 5 days.
The rest of the routine is spent finding the nearest bathroom, buy a bag of Chinese crackers (yes more carbs) from the newsstand and find a seat at the gate, go to bathroom again (double and triple check that all chambers are empty prior to boarding), scope out gate and the potential of a full flight. Anything less than A boarding on Southwest can spell disaster on a full flight. It is IMPERATIVE I get a window seat. Middle seating when traveling alone is a DEFCON 5 situation. There will be sweating, gastro-intestinal distress and possibility of uncontrolled speaking in tongues. Whatever we do, we get in that first line of boarders and make way to the back of the plane and away from the volatile mob fighting for seats and overhead storage in the first 10 rows (don’t they all know that if the plane crashes the front rows are toast?) Everyone knows the back of the plane has the best chance for survival where I can escape out of the back door moments before impact, landing in a dramatic tuck and roll living to tell my survival story on Oprah, DUH!
Scanning, scanning and more scanning as I slowly make my way to that empty row to make my new nest of nervous fretting for the next two hours. I will hold my breath until the fate of empty row is solidified. oh please God let it stay empty…nope? only a person on the end seat leaving the middle empty? okay I’ll take it! Exhale and whatever you do, DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH THAT PERSON SITTING 1.2 INCHES FROM YOU!
They say you are most likely to crash during the take off and landing. As long as I can live through the 15 min of each and we don’t hit a cement cloud or a bunch of birthday party baloons, I am able to keep my insides from becoming my outsides. Just get that plane off the ground and up into the nice flat air at 39,000 feet as soon as you can please. I am usually my most religious during these moments, as I recite my pre-flight prayer where I pray for the following:
- for a safe and smooth flight
- that nobody throws up because It will in return make me throw up
- that the pilot doesn’t have a heart attack or is recovering from a long night of cocaine and Irish car bombs
- that a lunatic (and by lunatic, I mean myself) does not freak out and try to open the emergency exit door mid-flight
- that the roof stays attached to the plane and does not fly open while I happen to be walking to the bathroom and get sucked out of the plane
- that everyone turned their electronic devices off so they don’t crash the plane while playing candy crush.
- and most importantly, they do not run out of those adorable little bottles of alcohol
Once we are in flight and did not careen off the runway in a ball of flames or strike a migrating flock of those wretched Canadian geese, my biggest concern is to stay as distracted as possible until we land. This can be accomplished by sleep, which in my case is just pretending to sleep while listening to music or by playing games on my phone repeatedly like Rainman (I’m really good at solitaire, I’m a really good at solitairian!) I have actually fallen asleep before, but it was after a 2nd Ativan, a double vodka tonic and glass of white wine (just leave the bottle with me ma’am) because the pilot felt it necessary to announce “we will be in for a bumpy ride” right before take off. I find that my imminent death is much easier to contemplate when I am in a substance induced coma. Whatever man, if we go down I want to be the pickled lump in aisle 38…peace!
Funny thing, once that plane starts the decent to landing I am good. Bumpy landings and all…knowing the plane is in a controlled state of landing (by controlled I mean the pilot actually is awake and has his hands are actually on the steering wheel) gives me a false sense of comfort. Once I hear that landing gear drop, I know we are good-HEY everybody we’re not going to slide off the runway on our bellies! Today we LIVE! This is the part where I get cocky and make fun of the people who brace for the landing and gasp as we make that first contact with sweet mother earth. What’s the matter people? scared of a little hop and skip on the runway? I’m from Los Angeles, we have potholes with their own zip codes, THIS is cake! *
I am the first person to turn my phone back on and text the world that I am still alive and by the miracle of Aeronautics am now 1200 miles from where I was 90 min ago! Arrival posted on FB, CHECK! Selfie of me bravely looking out window over the Rockies, CHECK-ITY-CHECK ME OUT!
I am fully aware of how ridiculous I sound about air travel. Honestly, I have read and taken every online aid to stop the insanity. I won’t stop flying because a life of never seeing this world is way more terrifying than the one in 11 million chance of plummeting to my death while clinging to the repulsive stranger I didn’t want anything to do with 5 min earlier. I guess as long as I am under heavy sedation and equipped with my anti-social devices, it’s all good…
that is until 5 days later when I have take to the skies once again to go home.
*Come to think of it, they really should serve cake on planes. Just putting that out there.