I used to watch the show “Ghost Hunters” religiously. I like the idea of the supernatural, even though I would probably soil myself if I ever had any sort of ghostly encounter. And the cast on the show has great chemistry; they are always entertaining. I especially identified with Steve Gonsalves, the tech guy, because he is infamous for his fear of flying. On one episode, the ghost hunters are heading to Europe and Steve is left behind. He regretfully watches them board the plane and then tells the camera, “I know they’re going to die.” I knew then that he and I were soul mates because I knew exactly what he was feeling. Stupid fools, trusting their lives to a skimpy piece of metal. Smart people stay on the ground!! Steve and I could live a full life together, earthbound, happy to drive across the country together in search of the paranormal, letting the other fools board those hunks of scrap metal that will plummet from the sky with no warning. Steve and I are clearly meant to be together.
How can Steve and I make the rest of you understand our very real terror of the airways? It has absolutely nothing to do with terrorists and terrorism. There are plenty of nut jobs right here on the ground, and if that were my fear, I would be having my groceries delivered to the house while I hunkered down in the basement, counting the rounds in my assault rifle. No, our fear is grounded in our absolute certainty that airplanes are prone to plummeting out of the sky for no apparent reason. Our fear is grounded in our absolute certainty that the pilot spent the evening before smoking his way through some really good dope, chasing it with a fifth of whiskey, while frolicking with strippers in the club. No disrespect intended, but clearly this is the type of behavior pilots probably indulge in before boarding the plane and taking my life into their hands. Except for Chesley Sullenberger. He would never gambol with a prostitute.
My own fear of flying is grounded in my absolute certainty that while I am sitting in my seat, flipping through the sky mall magazine and trying to figure out how I can charge a new set of Bose speakers to Stalin’s credit card, the bottom of the plane will abruptly rip open and I will find myself, strapped to the seat and plunging toward the earth at an alarming rate, all before I even have a chance to get his credit card number. Dammit. Unreasonable fear? Yes, but that’s why they call it a phobia. When I am flying, it’s all I can not to throw myself onto the floor and lie their spread-eagled, because I am convinced that if I spread myself out on the floor and distribute my weight, the floor might not rip open. These are the images that haunt me in an airplane.
When I am flying, I grip the armrests so hard that I leave marks. I pant like a dog, eyes rolling in my head, and I stare at the stewardess with crazy eyes because I figure is she’s moving around normally, the plane is probably not falling out of the sky. Yet. I repeatedly tighten the seatbelt as if that flimsy little strap will actually make a difference when I and my seat are sucked out of the plane into the roaring wind of the atmosphere, me still clutching my tiny cup of Diet Coke and trying to take one last sip of carbonated goodness before my untimely death. Why do they even put seatbelts in the damn plane??? They’re completely ineffective when the plane takes a nosedive. They might as well give me some silly string and a slinky. Stupid seatbelts; I would much rather have an EJECT button and a parachute.
And don’t even get me started on turbulence. Let the plane make an unexpected dip and I hit the deck, shaking and sobbing. The only reason I haven’t stopped flying completely is that I have never hit serious turbulence. There’s a reason I don’t ride rollercoasters: I HATE unexpected plunges!!! Why would anyone find that sensation enjoyable?? The sensation of impending death does not give me a thrill; it gives me a bowel movement.
I guess you can read between the lines of this diatribe and figure out that I HATE TO FLY!! And, even worse, I hate for my children to fly. Which is why I am currently hyperventilating because I just put Napoleon on an plane to New Mexico. Or let’s call it what it really is….Pre-meditated MURDER!!! How could I let my innocent boy board that death trap? How could I put him on a plane whose propeller is held together with Elmer’s Glue and Duck tape? A plane that is piloted by a hungover middle school dropout who spent the final minutes before take-off flipping through his (newly purchased) copy of “Piloting a Boeing 747 For Dummies”??? What in the HELL WAS I THINKING????
Needless to say, I am going to spend the rest of the morning in an advanced state of despair, refreshing the website every ten seconds to see if the plane has landed yet. I will not be like my friend Debbie who found a site that showed her daughter’s flight’s progress with a little cartoon plane. Because when I see the little plane suddenly send up a plume of smoke and take a nosedive, it will send me screaming into the night. Better for me to play out the final descent in my head over and over again versus seeing it happen via cartoon image. Right?? I think I will begin self-medicating now…isn’t Nyquil 80 proof??