I hate to fly. I mean, I’m downright phobic about it—that airplane thrust as it takes off—stomach dropping to my knee pits. It’s horror marked by g-force. And then there’s the pull when we land where my stomach leaps back into its rightful cavity, but then my brain threatens to burst out of my forehead.
I’m amazed how often someone assures me that I only have to worry about the takeoff and landing part of flying. Yeah. I know. Let’s not forget the middle part where the plane might drop from the sky for the sheer reason that man was not meant to fly, and neither was a hunk of metal weighing seventy-five tons or more. With that said, every once in a while I take a plane because I like how much faster I get from A to Zee-vacation destination.
Years ago, I hopped on a small plane going to Minnesota which led to an even smaller plane as I headed to Iowa to visit my sister, Lindsay. The plane was terrifyingly tiny with a layout of two seats, an aisle, and then two more seats per row, making eight rows, total.
Two things happened that made the journey worse; A, my seat was directly on the left wing and for some reason, where dry ice was stowed, and B, the person sitting next to me. She was an older lady who spoke the entire thirty-minute flight. I don’t mind the jabbering passenger because it takes my mind off of plummeting from the friendly skies. However, it was the subject matter that was worrisome. The first thing the woman said as she strapped herself in was, “Do you believe in God?”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I dreamt last night we were going to crash.”
For the next half-hour the woman to my right went on and on about death, dying, and airplane crashes. When I tried to change the subject, she ignored me. When I told her I was an aerophobic, she said, “Yeah, me, too,” and kept right on talking. Not even when thin vapors of dry ice rose up through the cracks in the floor, freezing our feet and legs did the woman stop. Nor did she stop when I closed my eyes and started counting aloud to drown her out. I knew then I was going to die on that flight, my consolation being that at least the woman next to me would too.
There are millions of people who are afraid of flying, and their reasons vary from crashes to terrorist threats, but now there’s two new fears added to the mix; the possible flight delay and the flight attendant? Yep. I’m not talking about a steward bumping the drink cart down the aisle, smacking unsuspecting elbows as he goes. I’m referring to what’s been going on recently in the news, and it’s happening even before takeoff!
There’s screaming to contend with, not by two-year-olds whose ears have popped with the drop in air pressure, but by a grown man being dragged down the aisle by the flight crew forcing him to give his paid seat to airline heads who refused to wait their turn.
Or the frazzled woman, an infant in each arm, trying to get on the plane only to have the flight attendant yelling and yanking her stroller away and then turning on another passenger who stood up for the woman.
Remember the two teenaged girls that were turned away from the gate for wearing leggings? It seems that the old advertisement, “Come fly the friendly skies” should now include, “as long as there isn’t overbooking, you don’t have infants, and if your apparel meets with our approval.” What’s going on? Is flying taking the place of mid-afternoon traffic on the turnpike? Is this what travelers can expect—runway road rage?
It seems to me that the apex of all the airplane angst rests on the attendant, not necessarily the attendee. What happened to accommodation training? What happened to during a crisis, keeping one’s heads, instead of smashing them?
Is there a direct correlation between less legroom and the jamming in of more seats? What about in the hike in ticket costs and paying for amenities that used to be free (I’m bracing for when it’ll cost five dollars to use the toilet)? And then there are more flights, happening more often? Could it be that the liaisons who juggle flight captains and consumers are simply worn out? I think so. It might explain why the airline mediators seem to be clutching on to policy so tight and why procedure has become paramount while the patron’s well being is secondary; Rules equals life-preserver?
And what about delays? If your plane is deferred, you are sequestered, either ten hours in an airport without food or drink or you are taken hostage inside the aircraft, also without food or drink. Forget finding a nearby hotel. Forget trying to hop on another flight. You’re trapped—think extended family Thanksgiving or a daughter’s regional dance recital—you’re stuck until released.
It used to be that delays were due to bad weather, backed up plane traffic, a canceled flight or bomb threat. Now there’s the concern that a passenger, after waiting for thirty minutes on the tarmac will have to pee—flight over!
I know there’s always going to be something to worry about whenever I fly. But is it really worth all this drama? I wonder if the Wright brothers knew that there was more fear in flying than taking a running leap off a hill in Kitty Hawk?
Perhaps we should all just throw caution to the wind and drive to our destinations—or as far as we can. Of course, we’d probably have to take more time off to do so, but then again, I don’t know who wouldn’t benefit from an extended holiday. Besides, I’d rather be vacationing than raging in the sky or on the ground any day.