I am not the adventurous type. I live in the same town I was born in, I married a guy I dated in high school, and we bought our house from my parents who bought it in 1978. I’ve had the same bedroom since I was five years-old and I order the same thing every time I go to the one restaurant I eat at. To say I’m a homebody is an understatement at best. What does going anywhere new accomplish? I already know what I like, and I have everything I need right here within my reach. I can call someone to deliver me the taste of Thailand, and Mexican music is available on iTunes. If something is worth experiencing, I’ll do it here. I’m up to party hardy dawgs, fo shizzle and I’m hip to a fun jive. Let’s just do it here in my living room, okay?
So it’s not a stretch for most to believe that I don’t fly. Flying is for birds and kites, of which I am neither. My affinity for the couch and all things gravity-based is stronger than any desire to see a foreign land or distant relatives. Until I can drive to Europe or Asia, I am content here in my 20 mile radius bubble of Berber carpeted comfort. I have flown in the past, so this isn’t a case of “but you’ve never even tried it!” I first flew when I was six years old, and quite simply, I was too stupid to know any better. Back then I believed in mysteries like the Tooth Fairy and physics. Today I am an adult and know that both these things are complete make-believe. At that tender age I didn’t yet have the ability to analyze things to death, such as how a humongous metal contraption could propel itself forward while hundreds of miles above the earth. An airplane is a magical mystery tube AND IT’S NOT RIGHT. I didn’t fly again after that until I was 23 years old. That trip was for my honeymoon and while my husband understood I had a fear of flying, I don’t think he truly comprehended the extent of my affliction until we went to the travel agency to book our vacation. He had turned down my suggestions of driving to Colonial Williamsburg or Florida, seeing that he wasn’t a 75 year old man with a penchant for golf and 4pm all-you-can-eat dinners. He instead insisted on someplace tropical, and so off we went to the travel agent with our criteria. His list was simple: it had to be hot, sandy, and have unrestricted access to a Daiquiri machine. My list was a bit more complicated. If he absolutely insisted on going outside of territorial North America, then I would consent only if the flight was less than three hours and on an airline which had had no incidents in the last decade. They must also have a clean record from all international aviation governing bodies and the pilot must be experienced, but not old. But not too young, either! Fellow passengers must be be tolerant during my hysteria during takeoff, landing, and all periods in-between. I also requested that the stewards be prepared for some serious urinary incontinence on my part should we encounter turbulence. Unfortunately this flight did not go as smoothly as my first, back when I was a little girl who was, quite frankly, pretty goddamn stupid.
I thought I was prepared this time and I even felt excited as we walked down the narrow gangplank that lead to the aircraft. But as I crossed the threshold from the tube now known as “the hallway of terror” into the airplane, I could tell this wasn’t going to end well. My heart revved up to about 180 beats a minute and I began to sweat. The panic that comes from being out of control set in, and to make things worse, as soon as we were seated my husband fell asleep and I was left alone. (I should not be left alone under any circumstances.) The fates had seated me next to a 13 year-old boy who was traveling to Bahamas to spend the summer with his grandmother. I don’t think he ever came back to Canada, because I passed the three hour flight sobbing onto his tiny shoulder, and reacted to every bump and noise with ‘WHAT THE F@$K WAS THAT?” I felt trapped in this flying tinfoil coffin and I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack when the turbulence started. I describe it as being in a blender with a handful of rocks, but my husband assured me his drink didn’t even tip over. As far as turbulence goes apparently it was “minor” and I was “a complete lunatic and does this certificate of marriage have an escape clause?”
I couldn’t get a full breath in and my mind started going places it has no right to go. What if the pilot fell asleep? What if the co-pilot and he had a fight and they couldn’t pull it together to land this thing? Was the pilot a drinker? Was he preoccupied with a marital problem? The plane made another strange noise I can describe only as “shit your pants metal crunching.” I politely inquired across the aisle “DEAR GOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE I THINK A WING FELL OFF?” and the kind gentleman answered “Gee…I don’t know. I fly a lot and I’ve never heard anything like that before!” which did not help.I decided then and there that I would never fly again if it could be helped. I can’t handle the feeling of the grip around my heart. My blood pounds in my ears and I cry and swear and I pray and make promises to Gods both recognized and invented and I’m out of control and I’m spinning and we’re all gonna die, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!
Because of the way I react under travel stress, it is best that I resist flight at all costs. I’ve flown only four times in my entire life and I realize that there are people who fly more often than that every week. I hear there are also people who fly for fun. FOR FUN! Can you even imagine doing this by choice? I can only conclude that these people are nuts. Well-traveled, passport stamp collecting fucking nutters. No where on earth is worth that stress. You want warm temperatures and blue waters? Crank up the furnace and throw some Calgon in the tub.
From this fear I’ve developed some coping strategies for flight, should it become absolutely unavoidable. My first tip for fellow aerophobs is to avoid the discussion of flight in the first place. I’ve discovered there are very few things a man will remember talking about if he’s interrupted with a pulled pork sandwich and the promise of sexual favor. My partner loves to travel, but thanks to my willingness to try freaky stuff at least once and my homemade chipotle BBQ sauce recipe, I’ve only had to fly one time the entire six years we’ve been together. Actually that’s my only tip. I’ve never had to go beyond that.
My fear of flying is a mixed bag of control issues, trust issues, over-analysis of every noise and bump issues, fear of heights and small spaces issues, and I-don’t-wanna-die-issues. There is likely no cure, and I’m totally cool with that. It’s not a problem for me because I don’t need to fly. People who’ve gotten over their fear of flying tell me my fear will lessen as I get older and my will to live diminishes, but I’m not counting on it. I’ve told my partner countless times to not fight my irrational fears with measured, rational counter-arguments rooted in things like “scientific fact” and “proven statistics,” because science and data and rationality never solved anything.
Road trip, anyone?
Image Source: Wikicommons