Monday, April 19, 2010

Flying- A Five Step Program

I love flying.

The first time I flew in an airplane, (well, I haven't flown any other way) I was traveling between the exotic locales of Cleveland and Boston. I was hooked and glued to the window. The flight attendant had to try three or four times to get my attention to offer me some peanuts; I took the bag and put my nose right back on the window. Now, this is pretty much standard procedure for me; but, probably soon, the airlines will be charging for the peanuts and I won't be distracted at all.

But, there is another side. No, it isn't a love/hate relationship I have with flying, it is a love/scared-shitless-I-may-not-make-it-alive-time-to-make-it-right-with-everyone relationship. I experience this every time, but only during take-off and landing. Especially take-off, though. The business people around me (all two of them who fly coach) are completely unfazed after logging ten-thousand hours in flight; the kids are too busy doing the inevitable bouncing on and kicking the seat in front of them to know the difference; other people have ingested enough alcohol through their ten dollar drinks at the airport that if something really bad happened, they would be immolated so fast they wouldn't know what happened.

Me? I go through a real quick version of the K├╝bler-Ross model for facing death.

1. Denial
a. I tell myself about how infrequent a plane crash is.
Of course, it can happen as infrequently as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series; it only has to happen once to moi.
b. I tell myself driving a car is much more risky.
Yeah right. I've been in car accidents. Hell, I've been in a six-car pile-up in Maryland and, as far as I remember, it didn't involve falling thousands of feet.
2. Anger
I usually skip over this pretty quick, unless a kid is behind me doing the inevitable, well, you know. The last time I flew to Rome I saw an elderly gentleman (one of those adjectives is being used quite casually) fly into a jaw-unhinging rage because someone was talking too loud near him. Funny, I didn't hear the other people talking at all; the, uh, old man was yelling at decibels that would match a jackhammer. I guess he was just going through stage two.
3. Bargaining
Oh, yes. Big time. Then I feel really stupid.
4. Depression
I'll spare you the details. Which brings us on to-
5. Acceptance
This is, basically, most of the process for me. Sometimes I don't have much time for the others, so I have to go through them in rapid succession. I may be distracted reading, or we've been waiting forever to taxi to the runway and I don't see what's happening until it's almost too late. Then I spring into action, moving as fast as I can to stage five. This is where I start to say goodbye to everyone I know and love. I ask them to forgive me- "I'm sorry I didn't appreciate that" or, "I'm sorry I'm a pain in the ass", or one of the many variations on a basic theme. I tell them I forgive them, if there is anyone I think fits in this category, then I take a deep breath, hold onto the armrest with a grip that would strangle a wolverine in two seconds flat, and pray.

When the plane has reached a height and speed that seems in keeping with a nice, fairly smooth flight, and not fiery terror, then I take another deep breath, stare out the window, completely enjoy myself and look forward to the in-flight selection of alcohol. From my experience, Air France serves champagne for free on transatlantic flights, and that sure can help me forget all about those five steps I've just completed. Until we are about to land.


  1. I go through a very similar process every time I fly. Mexicali Airlines used to also serve complimentary champagne. I don't know if they still do. Last time I flew there was in 1990.

  2. As you can already tell, I'm crazy about flying and looking at everything below. It's funny, that whole process probably takes twenty to thirty seconds, then I'm happy as a clam.

  3. This is great. I completely agree. nothing sums up ones life like the moments before flight. I start the week or month prior, as soon as I have a ticket. Next to the ocean, and deep space images, there is nothing so awe inspiring. For me in addition to the ocean, and vastness of space, flying instills the greatest faith in me, far greater than church or book could. the thought of millions of parts functions in unison and not failing......well AMEN!