Flying is Scary

Here’s a nice little post about my greatest fear for your Halloween reading enjoyment.

I’m just going to go ahead and say up front that I’m writing the post with this subject line because I really want you to convince me otherwise, to say whatever magic combination of words needs to be said to cast away my fear of flying for good. I’ve heard it all, and yet all logical arguments for why flying is totally safe and nothing to get excited about do not prevent me from feeling the beginning tinges of anxiety as soon as the plane takes off — a fear that mounts as the plane ascents and peaks whenever there is a sustained amount of turbulence at cruising altitude.

Airplane landingTurbulence doesn’t tear apart modern commercial planes. I know that.

Engines have duplicate parts in case the first ones fail. I know that.

Even with complete engine failure, planes can coast for long distances until such a point that they should be able to make a safe landing. I know that, too.

Planes are the safest method of transit. The odds of you dying in a plane crash are in the millions. A little turbulence in the air is not very different from bumps on a highway. I know all that.

But all that knowledge from hours of studying up on the internet and talking to people in advance of flying goes out the window when I’m picturing the pilots losing control and the plane crashing any time the plane suddenly begins to jerk around. I get superstitious and believe that the fact that I accidentally pictured the plane crashing means it’s going to happen, and that my mind controls the plane and I have to visually picture it flying safely and pray nonstop in order to survive the flight. Then when I get flustered and forget some words to The Lord’s Prayer I worry that the fact that I forgot what phrase goes directly after “give us this day our daily bread” is what’s going to cause the crash.

I’m telling you this because like most embarrassing things, it’s kind of funny, because it’s ridiculous and I hope we can laugh about it, and that maybe laughing about it means it can’t come true. I have to admit just reading the related content pieces WordPress is populating on my screen right now (various recent reports of crashes) are making me a little uneasy, but I did find one nice article that I’m linking below as a “related article” that makes me feel a little better.

I didn’t always feel this way. I may have always pictured my planes going down in flames, but I was able to shake the image pretty easily until recently. I think my phobia really started after one particularly turbulent flight a little over a year ago, a return flight going from San Francisco to New York. I don’t even really remember a lot of what happened (probably blocked it out), just that the turbulence went on and on and felt like it would never end. I do remember the video screen showing that we were flying over the Great Lakes and I was cursing the states of Wisconsin and Michigan and Great Lakes in my head. They were to blame. The plane wouldn’t have been shaking had we been flying over some quiet and unassuming state like Montana or South Dakota. They don’t have lakes in them big enough to send up storms that shake planes.

I try to read books or listen to music or podcasts, and those things sort of tide me through the minor jiggles, but as soon as a big lurch happens I’m putting that book down, forgetting everything I just read or heard. The same seems to be true for drinking. A minute of turbulence does more to provoke fear than a couple of pre-flight beers in the airport bar and gin and tonic on the plane does to calm my nerves. My doctor prescribed me valium, which did nothing for me. In fact, the one time I used it I was in tears and grateful to have my girlfriend Rachel there to comfort me. I think the medicine ended up doing the opposite of what it was supposed to.

Like Dan Savage said on his Lovecast from last week (he played and responded to my call), I revert to my religious upbringing in times of great fear, so I’m hoping that a free little prayer booklet I picked up at my parents’ church is going to help me, and I have another medicine to try the next time I fly. I expect the booklet will get nice and rumpled and wet from hand sweat and excessive use in no time.

Please feel free to share any stories or tips you may have.


3 thoughts on “Flying is Scary

  1. Pingback: Flying is Awesome | themidnightdiner

  2. Pingback: 2008: Disastrous Flight to San Francisco | MASCrapping

  3. Pingback: Observations on Train Travel | themidnightdiner

Holla back, girl

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