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Facing Flying June 2, 2011

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I haven’t been on a plane in almost five years.

It’s not that I’ve been avoiding it, exactly. But I haven’t been seeking it out, either. Since Northbrook shut down a few years ago, we’ve been mourning our old vacation spot and putting money into the house and laying low travelwise. We let our frequent business trips to Portland fill in some of the excitement gaps.

The last time I got on a plane was for a trip to Oregon to celebrate my twentieth wedding anniversary.

Now I’ve purchased airline tickets for two trips.

And now the panic is setting in.

It’s not exactly a fear of flying, although I am definitely capable of freaking out in turbulence. The thing is, my body just hates the whole business. I dehydrate easily. I need to drink a lot of water. I need an aisle seat to deal with the consequences of drinking all that water. An aisle seat is also handy if I happen to suffer motion sickness, which sometimes I do. (Only once have I ever actually vomited on a plane, and it was a three-seater bumping along for nearly an hour in Belize, so really, I hadn’t a chance.)

As a friend once pointed out, a fear of the plane crashing is an irrational fear. A fear of throwing up in front of people? Much more realistic.

The anticipation is almost always much worse than the reality. Once I am in the air—reading, whatever—I’m usually fine, although I need a little recovery time afterward, especially if I’m jumping several time zones.

Things have changed a lot since I last got on a plane. I have to read up a bit on exactly what I can carry on and what I can’t. Most airlines charge for checked bags now. The whole boarding-pass thing is confusing. My friend Terry, who travels all the time, says that the current hassle of travel is even enough to get her to occasionally think twice about going somewhere (but she, ever the adventurer, has yet to be deterred).

Terry, in fact, is part of the inspiration for this month’s trip. She lives in LA and made plans to visit our mutual friend and former coworker, Esther, in Bloomington, Indiana. I had planned to fly out to see Esther in September 2001 and ended up canceling that trip (imagine!), thinking I certainly would reschedule sometime. When Esther and Terry invited me to join them, I realized that it has been almost ten years, and that sometime better be now.

There is no direct flight from Albany, New York, to Bloomington, Indiana. There is only one airline that offered a big plane on both legs of the trip. I booked the trip with them.

Lately there have been daily and horrible storms all over the United States. I am trying not to think about that. I am trying to have faith that my much-needed trip to spend time with friends will not be front- or back-loaded with me having panic attacks before or during flights because of weather or any other thing. I am trying to have that same faith about my trip in September—when we’re heading to California to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.


1. helen - June 2, 2011

Twenty-five! Congratulations…

I completely understand your fears, since I feel much the same way about flying. Luckily, the destination (and all that that implies–friends, celebrations, etc.–provides a huge incentive to stare those fears down.

P.S. I have a superstition I indulge in every time I fly. I pull out the safety pamphlet before takeoff and skim through it (which prevents the plane from crashing) without taking anything in (which would cause the plane to crash).

indigo bunting - June 7, 2011

Helen: I skim it too! I will do so this time as well to assure that I’ll be fine.

2. laurie - June 3, 2011

you will be fine. anticipation is always worse. just make sure you get to the airport in plenty of time because security can sometimes take a while.

enjoy your trip!

3. Sylvester - June 4, 2011

Courage, ma petite! La vie es une merde et depuis la morte. Jejeje

4. Sylvester - June 4, 2011

I can’t believe I left off the t from est. What a moron.

indigo bunting - June 7, 2011

It’s just a typo!

5. Sylvester - June 4, 2011

By the way, I hate flying too!!

6. Lali - June 5, 2011

Wish I could contradict your apprehensions, but they’re mostly accurate. But just think of the millions of people who fly every day–it can’t be that bad. Or can it?

7. Dona - June 6, 2011

I have the same fears and apprehensions. Good luck.

Bloomington Indiana? There’s got to be a more exciting place to fly. Also — can’t you drive there? With a stop in Bethesda on the way?

indigo bunting - June 7, 2011

Dona: Sixteen hours the short way, which apparently is not via Bethesda. I had hoped to road trip with a friend who has friends out there, but the timing wasn’t right.

And actually, it’s going to be way more exciting than you’d think.

8. Mali - June 7, 2011

Um, as you probably guessed, I can’t really relate to this.

Well, I know I don’t look forward to long flights in economy class (I believe you Americans call it ‘coach’), in fact I dread them, but that’s for the discomfort. I endure the queues at check-in, or at customs/immigration/security, because I figure the destinations (or the people at the destination) are going to be worth it.

I did write an economy class survival guide on my travelalphablog – though it probably doesn’t help you, here’s the link anyway. http://atozoftravel.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/e-is-for-economy-class/

indigo bunting - June 7, 2011

Good to read that again, Mali. Alas, I think there was only one time when I wasn’t in coach…

9. LisaS - June 8, 2011

i don’t like flying, either. i only fly if it’s more than 12 hours driving, and only reluctantly then. i get the extended search every time. add that to my vertigo making me feel like i’m falling out of the air and my hips killing me from being wedged into a seat for 3 hours or whatever … i tend to drink the entire time if i can. so …. i commiserate now and later.

10. Jenny - June 10, 2011

Congratulations on your anniversary! On flying – I feel the same way. Every creak, every rumble, every unusual facial expression on the flight attendant, is heard, felt, noticed, and logged in the anxiety passbook. I will look out the window once we’re at “cruising altitude,” but not a moment before. The world at an angle, or all tilt-a-whirl as we change direction? No thanks. I also have a couple of pre-flight anxiety-abating rituals that are completely ridiculous and superstitious.

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