Yes. Yes I do. Away from this fricken plane.
I never used to fear flying, at all. My parents separated when I was in grade school so I flew all over the country, every year, alone, to wherever Dad had moved. Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas…multiple times…and never an issue. As a kid I sat alone on a tarmac for hours inside a flightless plane while it was de-iced. No issue. Jumped the pond to Europe, alone, with a crew that spoke primarily French. Loved it. Slept almost the whole way.
The take off was always the best part. I would crank my Sony Discman (ya, that’s right, it played CDs, or compact discs as they were also known by) as loud as I could tolerate, or as loud as the passengers next to me could tolerate, because back then we wore headphones outside of our ears that had spongy mesh foam coverings that allowed everyone around to hear. So there I was, earning my wings, rockin out, generally feeling invincible. Good times. But good times never last, do they.
One bad flight… just one… about 8 years ago and everything went to hell. And it wasn’t even a bad flight per se… no real turbulence or anything… it was the person sitting next to me that infected me with their phobia and from there it spread like a cancer to present day. Oh if I could only reach out and slap that person now… wait, I can, I married her.
Pretty sure it was a flight to Vegas, probably the first time I flew with my lovely wife (girlfriend at the time) and all appeared normal to me. Ohhhh no. Not even a bit normal. Plane takes off and she’s white-knuckling the arm rest, my arm, the seat cushion, whatever she can. Looking out the window, then across the aisle, then behind her, then at me. Repeat. And repeat again.
“What’s that sound?!?”
“The engine, dear.”
“Is that normal?!?”
“Wait, did you feel that, what’s THAT?!?!”
“The landing gear. Totally normal.”
And so on, and so on, and so on, until that doubt starts creeping in on me. By the time we arrive I’m exhausted and the seed had been planted.
Fast forward to today. A flight to New Orleans.
I eat a Xanax at 8:30 before heading to the airport because it’s raining in St. Louis and planes crash in the rain. Get through security and eat another Xanax at 10:30 because the weather in New Orleans is apparently a freakin’ mess with “coastal flooding” and “tornado warnings” and of course planes crash when there’s coastal flooding and tornados. Take my seat on the plane, ready for takeoff, only to have the pilot describe how awful this flight is going to be because of weather in NOLA. To make matters worse, the flight attendant follows up his speech by reiterating, twice, the fact that our flight is going to be bad.
Really? REALLY? I want off.
So beverage service begins while we’re still ascending because, as the pilot NOW mentions, we only have a small window of time before we get creamed by turbulence and he wants his crew and everyone else in their seats before that happens.
Well screwwwwww you.
Beverage service comes and of course it’s closing in on noon so we’ll be ordering a Bacardi and coke, thank you, to bring my heart rate down just a pinch more. Flight attendants are moving at a fast pace to get drinks in hands and back to buckled.
“Well folks, just received word that the weather has deteriorated so we anticipate hitting that turbulence a bit sooner than expected. Be prepared to take your seat when I say. It’s going to get rough. Sorry about this.”
Deteriorated. Of course it did.
The thing is, I’m not afraid of death.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
– 1 Corinthians 15:55
When it comes, it comes, and I know that I know that I know that my salvation is secure in Christ, for all of eternity. I have absolute peace about what’s to come. There’s just something about entering into eternity via plane crash that has an unsettling grip on me now. Completely irrational, hence a “phobia”.
So for all the drama and warnings and anticipation of impending doom… nothing. A few bumps here and there, but nothing. I’ve experienced worse turbulence in a golf cart. Truly unbelievable considering how things transpired in light of what was expected. Even the online travel reports stated severe turbulence for the duration of our flight. Small miracles like these reaffirm my faith each time, yet go widely unnoticed by most. My wife prayed through the entire second half of the flight, and say what you will, but He hears us. All of us, all the time. Sometimes He answers “yes”, sometimes “no”, sometimes “not yet”… but He always answers.
So here we are. Hello NOLA. Let’s see what we can get in to.