You Fly, You Die

Oh, cruise ships!  What am I going to do if you guys keep screwing up?  Sounded almost like surviving Hurricane Katrina with the Super Dome at sea.  And not one person kidnapped a lifeboat to flee the scene?  Are we seriously the same species that created the wheel?

I’ve always in the back of my mind believed that cruising is probably the best way to go for me when it comes to travel over water.  I have a fear (term used loosely) of flying.  I know, it makes everyone a little nervous.  I can’t tell you how many times people like to tell me that I just need a cocktail to calm my nerves and I will be just fine.  Everyone gets a little flight fright.  Wrong.

Like most people, I have certain memories that are burned into my brain from childhood.  A series of them that I can’t seem to erase are news reports.  Specifically news reports that I watched with my father… about airplane crashes.  Every time a plane would go down, my dad would say these very reassuring words.  “You fly, you die.”

Why couldn’t he have waited until my teenage years, a time that you don’t believe a word that your parents say.  Nope, I was taught long ago that death is certainly to come if you go mucking around in the sky.  I’m getting twitchy right now just talking about it.

Have I ever flown in an airplane (opposed to an alien spaceship?), yes.  A handful of times.  The anxiety hasn’t gotten any better and seems to vary depending on flight time, distance, layovers, weather, if they serve meals (food poisoning will also kill you.)

The first time I flew, I was twenty one.  It was a little over a month after 9-11.  I was coming back from Florida and I was supposed to be Greyhounding it all the way back from my Dad’s house back home to Virginia.  My parents, who had not talked cordially since their divorce ten years prior, conspired against me to keep me off of my bus route.  Somehow they decided that I should fly.

Yes, Mr. You Fly, You Die thought I should get on a plane.

Somehow, they convinced me that my chances of death on a plane were less likely than being stabbed to death at a bus stop in Georgia at two am.  I don’t know how on Earth they convinced me to even try this.  My dad kept insisting, “you’ll be fine, this is perfectly safe.”  All I kept hearing was, “You fly, you die.  This is the speediest way to cut all ties with you.”

So, off to the airport we go.  I’m trying Lamaze-like breathing techniques to try to stay calm.  I spent a great deal of time wondering if I could run fast enough to make it to the bus stop in time from the airport.  Maybe I could just walk.  I didn’t need to be back to work until Tuesday.  I could make it through all those states surely by then.

By the time I hit the check-in gates, people nearby were sure that my dog had been shot right before my eyes.  I wailed and cried and held onto the carpet with my bare hands as people tried to drag me over the point of no return line.  “I just know I’m going to die!”

My dad waved, “you’re going to be alright!  I promise.”  Side note:  Later he told me he felt really bad that he put me on that plane, because he was certain I was going to die on it.

As he slid my bags through the x-ray machine, a man asked me if I was okay.   I could have sworn I saw some sort of hand gesture, a facial expression, some sort of signal given to a co-worker.  Next thing you know, I was in the “random” search line.

It’s here I want to explain to you that if you are on your way to a nervous breakdown, the last thing you need is a man with a pair of latex gloves fingering through your vacation souvenirs and weeks’ worth of dirty underwear.  On lookers were sure I was either caught smuggling drugs or weapons.  Why else would someone be sobbing so much as a complete stranger pulls your ugliest bra out of your bag.

Finally, when it was apparent that only my mental stability was a threat, I was moved on to the line of people heading onto the plane.  Before I stepped on the plane, I got one last glimpse at the sky before leaving the tented hall.  “This is the last time I will ever see the world.  I am going to die.”

I got on the plane and found a seat.  My dad suggested I sit by a window.  Everyone talks about sitting by the window.  I followed instruction, put my bag overhead and sat with my book in my lap.  I then desperately adjust my seatbelt until it resembled a tourniquet.  There’s a possibility that blood flow stopped to my legs.  A man took the aisle seat beside me.  He obviously was never taught not to talk to the lady who looks like she’s having a nervous breakdown.  He talked, and talked, and talked.  I tried to cram my head in my book and read.  “You are just on the train, you are just on the train.”

The flight attendant appeared and started giving instructions on what we needed to do in the event that the plane started going down.  I honest to God was scribbling down notes.  Since this plane was certainly going to go down, I was going to do everything to survive it.  Mr. Chattypants still continued to ramble on about his trip.  I was trying to figure out if I could backhand him and then raise my hand to ask crash related questions in one full sweep.  I knew one thing for sure.  I was definitely fitting my oxygen mask on myself before helping that idiot with his.

And we were off.  I put my face in my hands and prayed to anyone that would listen that if we were going to crash that it would happen sooner than later.  I didn’t want to get hopeful that we would make it just to die close to home.  I began to feel some tension release from my shoulders… I thought, “hey, there may be something to the power of prayer.  I’m starting to feel better.”  

WHY, oh why, did the stewardess’ bell have to sound like the gas light in my mom’s van?  “WE ARE OUT OF GAS!  OH MY GOD!  WE ARE GOING DOWN!”

That… was not just in my head.  After the lovely flight attendant calmed me down by holding a pillow over my head until I almost stopped breathing, she broke the news to me.  If I was ever to fly with that airline again, I better be getting a prescription for some sort of sedative.  A strong sedative at that.

Flying just isn’t for me.  I’d love to think that I could do it.  Jet off to places just like that.  It doesn’t happen though.  I’m a blubbing mess the whole time.  If given the option, I’d go with Titanic over Castaway any day!


3 thoughts on “You Fly, You Die

  1. “My dad waved, “you’re going to be alright! I promise.” Side note: Later he told me he felt really bad that he put me on that plane, because he was certain I was going to die on it”


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