Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm Alive

It's always been said that flight is the safest form of travel. Statistically, this may be so, however soaring through the sky in a 200,000 lb airbus leaves me less than assured. I've always had recurring dreams of plane crashes: planes blowing up, planes plummeting, all sorts of scenarios and locations but all with one thing in common - I'm never on the plane. In my dreams I'm always witnessing the tragic event from a distance (not necessarily a safe one) and I'm always okay at the end. I chalk the dreams up to having a fear of the unknown. I don't understand how these heavy pieces of metal can stay up in the air without coming down. Hello, Newton and gravity.

I've also always been a great traveler in spite of these somber dreams, but I'm noticing as I get older, the less of an ideal traveler I become. I've started a tradition of kissing my hand and placing my kiss on the left side of the plane as I enter making sure to protect the flight (ha). I also make sure to say hello to the captains and to thank them as I exit - they're very special chauffeurs.

Needless to say, upon departing New York on the 21st, I lugged my Orange County Choppers duffle bag (mental note: invest in a duffle bag that has wheels) onto the airbus, somehow mustered up the strength to get it into the overhead compartment and took my seat in aisle 8 at the window. Not long after, a nice older gentleman took his seat in the aisle and we celebrated the empty chair between us as the plane doors closed and we backed out to take off.

I'm used to flying at night, so being able to wear sunglasses on the plane was like a special treat and I bounced my head happily as I stared out the window and lip synched to the XM Country station. Before long, the captain announced that we would soon be starting our descent and would be landing at FLL in 35 minutes. It was then that the plane started lowering into the clouds and I glanced out there curiously like a small child on her first flight.

What's the worst thing that could happen to a nervous flyer? Turbulence. I take a deep breath and continue back-seat driving. I noted the color of the clouds which were dark and  that alone gave me the indication that we were flying through rain clouds. Fine, okay. Suddenly, the plane drops. Even through my earbuds I can hear the screams of the other passengers. Simultaneously my fellow flyers and I all grabbed for whatever we could to keep us in our seats. Did you know that the first thing people instinctively try to hold is the ceiling? Neither did I until Tuesday. The plane regains control of its surroundings and we continue our descent.

I turn up the volume a little more on the XM radio. Could there be a better time for irony? Kenny Chesney, "I'm Alive" featuring Dave Matthews began to play. I laugh out loud and put my head back on the chair. Again, the plane drops and screams of horror drown out the soothing sounds of the lullaby. Although this felt like a terrifying roller coaster, there were no tracks. This time my arms went behind me and I grabbed the back of my own seat, meeting the hands of the gentleman behind me who also latched onto the back of my seat. I look up waiting for the oxygen masks to fall down. Yes, we dropped far. No, I'm not over-exaggerating.  "Flight attendants, please take your seats..." the captain ordered nervously.

THAT'S IT! As the captains regained control of their plane, I grabbed my sweater, buried my face in it and leaned toward the window so my aisle-mate wouldn't witness me cry like an 8 year old. The tears flowed as Kenny and Dave finished their song. I tried not to sniffle loudly and I stealthily let the tears roll onto my sweater. Thank goodness for those sunglasses. I made sight of the runway and muttered, "thank goodness" as the wheels gently touched down. There were some claps and laughs and "thank you Jesus'" throughout the plane.

The gentleman beside me in the aisle turned to me and asked with a smile, "feel better?"
"You heard me?!" I asked embarrassed. He still smiled and shook his head yes. "I'm not a good flyer" I said as I sniffled, no longer caring how loud I was as he already knew of my panic-session. He helped me get my bag down and I waited my turn to exit the plane.

I thanked the captains.

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