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Wanderlust and Nervous Flyers

I get bored very easily.  Whether it’s the place I work, the  people I’m surrounded with day in and day out or the tedious repetition of daily routine – I often fantasize of escaping boredom through incessant travel.  I am convinced that in a former life I was a gypsy.  Everyone likes to travel from time to time to escape life, but my ideal life would be one where I was constantly changing time zones, flitting about always having new experiences and meeting new people.  I think this started in college when I went on orchestra tours.   It was a life of hotels and excitement.  I’ll admit I found it somewhat glamorous, even if we were paid a somewhat unimpressive per diem and stipend.  I loved the freedom and excitement of travel and I still do.  Things are economically a bit uncertain right now, as for many people, so it’s kind of a buzzkill to want nothing more than to get on one of Dick Branson’s Virgin flights and go somewhere new to assimilate and not be able to.  Someday in the near future I won’t be getting up at the same time every morning, eating my breakfast, getting my clothes out and showering in the same order, taking the same route to work, and sitting in the same four-cornered prison that is cubicle nation.  I am most definitely allergic.

That said, when I do have the chance to escape to a new locale, I have no trouble getting up in the morning.  I can easily get up at 3:30am for a 4:30am airport shuttle pick-up if I happen to be taking a voyage to New York or LA.  The people behind the counter at the airport must love me.  Most people are so grouchy and abusive upon the propsect of having to deal with lines they can’t control, security checkpoints and delayed flights that the airport personnel are often treated like their giving out free root canals.  I’m so annoyingly happy and cheerful with them, they must think I just won a million dollars. 

Wanderlust and Fear of FlyingOnce I get on the plane however, is a completely different story.  From the moment the plane starts shaking and we lift off, we’re talking instant white knuckles.  Flying is not natural for human beings and it is a horrible idea for those who are Type A control freaks.  You have willingly put your life in one fallible human being’s hands for an extended period of time.   His wife may have just asked for a divorce, fully intent to clean him out and he’s hostile, suicidal and taking everyone with him, God-forbid he may be texting up there, or cloudy and hungover.  Christ, everyone has a bad day – no one is immune.  My thinking is we all make mistakes at work, so why would a heart surgeon or a pilot be any different?  These are the things that occupy my mindreel as I’m hyper-attuned to any unexpected tilt of the plane or jolt.  Thanks to the Hudson river debacle I have now added a new flying worry to my long list.  Birds flying into the engines.  I didn’t even know this was a possibility or could take a plane down before.  Thanks for that one.  Couldn’t we have kept that on the DL?    One of the downsides of being an acutely intuitive person when it comes to body language and facial expressions is that you notice everything (and perhaps a little bit more) when you’re gauging reactions of the stewardesses.  You imagine that they have seen it all and go through this all the time, so if they are worried then we’re all in deep shit.  Most of the time I can self-soothe by reminding myself how abnormally paranoid I am in the air.  Let’s say the buckle seatbelt light comes on randomly.  Immediately my eyes are on the stewardess like white on rice, intent on picking up the slightest look of concern or agitation.  When I realize she’s just going to the front of the plane to bring out the beverage cart I loosen my grip on the knee of the passenger to my right.  Whew.  False alarm.

One time I was not so lucky.  I was on a flight back from Reno with a girlfriend and I saw a look on the stewardess’ face that made me sit up a bit.  The stewardesses seemed to be racing up and down the aisles  at a rapid pace and occasionally uflight_attendantp to the cockpit which made me nervous to say the least.  Then the pilot comes on and informs us we will need to prepare for an emergency crash landing because they don’t have enough hydraulics to get to the back of the plane to get the landing gear down.  It seems that everyone else seems to know just how to act in situations like this.  All I could think about was the plane hitting the ground at 180 mph with no wheels.  No, the belly of the plane won’t split open and we won’t all catch on fire.  No – that’s probably just my paranoid imagination again!  Everyone seemed to be calm as if they went through emergency crash landings all the time, but my friend and I were crying hysterically and holding hands knowing that we were being tragically forced to meet da maker in our prime.  We went through 30 minutes of abject panic while everyone else acted like someone just told them they’ll have to do without sugar in their coffee.  “Oh ok, great – thanks for the heads up then.” their calm demeanors seemed to be saying.  Miraculously, they managed to get some spare hydraulics to the back of the plane and everyone clapped, ecstatic that their Last Supper was not going to be three and a half peanuts and a Diet Coke.  All was right with the world. 

Unfortunately, that experience did nothing to calm any fears I had around flying.  Yes, I am aware that it is, statistically speaking, an irrational fear.  I know it’s much more likely to die in a car accident, but I feel I have much more control over that and the percentage of survival after car crashes is much higher.  If you have a plane crash, you’re pretty much done for.  As you might imagine, this wanderlust/fear of flying combo poses quite a conundrum.  I adore travelling and find it a necessary practice to remind myself I have a pulse, yet I detest having to actually get on a plane to get there.

Well, Dick Branson and Steve Jobs must have gotten the memo that Me No Like to Fly because iPhone now as an application Virgin created for neurotic headcase flyers just like me!  It’s called “Flying Without Fear!”  and it has relaxation techniques, videos, tips and answers to incessant questions that all of us aviophobics tend to have.  If you have a panic attack during turbulence the application tells you, “It’s uncomfortable, but not dangerous.”  It also has an in-flight explanation from a pilot of exactly what happens from takeoff to landing, “fear therapy” for lowering anxiety, and a customizable program to prepare you for your flight.  In the event you have a major freak out you can hit the panic button, no pun intended, an actual  “fear attack” button for sudden moments of angst which provides breathing exercises, tips and soothing mantras at your fingertips.

I will definitely have to try this one out.  It could actually help to get through a flight. And while an iphone app won’t numb me as much as six glasses of wine, two martinis and a Valium might,  it would  prevent the stewardesses from having to reassure me every time we have minor turbulence or when someone blinks.  I think it’s time to go book a flight.

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One response »

  1. Pingback: City of Angels « You've Been Blogged!

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