Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Fear of... Everything

Because I'm going to be out of blogging space for a while, I thought I better rack up a couple posts to fill up the dead air. (?) I don't even know what that means! Hahaha!

Here's the thing, in addition to my other phobias, I have a fear of flying. Or rather, I have a fear of being in the air encased in a cylinder of metal going faster than I can drive. I'm not sure why I am afraid of flying. It might have to do with the fact flying out of Alaska involves flying over water. Lots of water. Alaska is surrounded by water: oceans, seas, bays, gulfs and straits. Water, water, everywhere.

The problem: I can't swim. I don't even know about floating.

Another fact, even if I could swim, the water is so cold, I'd shiver myself to death before I could take a stroke. Or another stranded passenger would probably drown me for all my onboard hysteria. That's because not only am I afraid of flying, I'm kind of a pain in the ass passenger. If I'm not drunk, sedated or encased in a strait jacket, I tend to freak out fellow flyers.

If you don't believe me about what a wuss I am when it comes to being on an airplane, I have a true story for you:

When I got married and was moving to England, my husband, mother-in-law and I had non-smoking seats in the middle of one of those big airliners. This plane was huge. It had two stories. We were on the lower deck (?), in the middle row of a 7 across seating arrangement. It looked similar to this:
Please let everyone be skinny!
Here's a link with "all you need to know" about one of these newer versions of the plane. I don't know how heavy the plane itself was but, back then (in the early 80's), I'm glad I didn't know that paint adds 650kg to the weight those airliners. That's over 1400 pounds. At least back then, my body only added 95 pounds to all that mass hanging in the air!

Anyway, I had packed my cigarettes into my checked baggage. My husband and MIL weren't smokers. I had no Valium because I was such a rookie. I was leaving my family and going very far away from them for the first time without a return ticket.

I was young and in love. Life felt very adventurous. For about the first twenty minutes airborne. After that, I started crying and couldn't stop. My husband was British so, well, you know. He and his mother were all stiff upper lip and probably mortified that I was starting to make a scene. The flight attendants were all British, of course. I know they were mortified and probably thinking "Twenty minutes down and 17 hours to go. Oy."

I want my Mama!!!

My husband probably starting planning either divorce or murder right then.

At first, my MIL was patient, but I could tell I was starting to freak her out. Even though she was probably praying for a quickie divorce for her son, she did a lot of "There, there, it's going to be fine". Then she began to signal the attendants with her eyes like a hostage trying to signal strangers for help. One of them came over with a really stiff drink. That didn't help. Now I was just a little wasted and crying now.

After about an hour, I saw a couple of the attendants discreetly approaching other passengers to have whispered conversations. I assumed they were talking about me. Of course they were talking about me. That made me cry harder. I thought of being so far from home with a bunch of unfeeling people and their cold, unsalted food. I started plotting my husband's death. Then something wonderful happened. Or it seemed wonderful at the time.

A flight attendant came to me carrying another free drink and a the smallest pack of cigarettes I'd ever seen.

Apparently, even though we were in a non-smoking section, the other passengers had signed a petition and agreed not to kill me if the attendants could get me liquored and nicotine-d up enough to maybe shut up and pass out.

They wished for me to be like this
I wished for this
It worked out for everyone. After a good smoke and four servings of, I don't know - brandy or something that was both sweet and potent- I sniffled my way into a slumber that lasted (I kid you not) my companions woke me to deplane at Heathrow. The longest walk of my life was the one off that plane and past attendants who somehow managed to look sincere as they thanked me for flying British Airways. The Brits are so dang nice, even under the worst circumstances.

Good thing I don't have to do a lot of air travel, right? I'm better at it now. I've learned that a Valium or a drink about half an hour before boarding keeps the worst of my panic under control. Also, I'm not as afraid of dying as I used to be. I won't mind being dead and going to Heaven, but the getting dead part still worries me a bit.
She's not afraid to fly.
Then there's...
I am very pleased to say that for this upcoming trip to Iowa, I did find a solution for the extra-long layover I have to endure. I spoke with the nicest airline rep ever (thank you, Erin Moore of American Airlines in Miami! You rock.) I learned that I can get a really affordable one day pass to lounge in the Admirals Club. As I mentioned to family members, I just have to make sure to find the right outfit comfortable enough to fly in without looking like a scrub when I get to the lounge. I'm thinking black jeans, black top and a my nice boots. Done. Nothing I can do about the wobbly knees except to medicate with liquor.

Again, a big shout out to American for having the Day Passes and for hiring excellent agents like Erin. It's always the reps that make an biggest impression for the company. I have high hopes for the Admirals Club. I've been in Delta's Crown Room and that was nice.

Okay. Now that you know about one of my experiences with flying, I will leave you to shake your head in wonder at how I manage life without a personal handler.