Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Facing My Greatest Fear: Flying in an Airplane (Yes, I Did :-))

I've been afraid of airplanes ever since I can remember.  I flew to Florida once when I was a little kid, and the trip back to Boston was rough--turbulence-ridden, and the pilot thought he was being funny by referring to himself as "Bud Weiser" as he pretended to crash into Boston Harbor.

Yeah, my parents decided that it was easier to load three children into a station wagon and drive three days for subsequent trips to the Sunshine State.  It was easier than trying to force me onto an airplane.

Just to give you some idea ...

So I have flatly refused to fly throughout my life.  I missed out on a high school exchange program in Australia, spring break in Mexico, lots of visits, not seeing family members that I should have seen, one of Belle's modeling events (thank you, Mom and Addie, for bringing her), and so on and so forth.

I've gotten close a couple of times.  My mother bought me a ticket to go to Florida with her, but I'd had recent surgery and was concerned about that (the details would probably make it clearer as to why it was an area of concern, but I'm not going there).  I called the doctor about anxiety medication for flying, and he happily gave me some ... but I was so anxious about flying in the days leading up to flying that I took all of the anxiety medication before it was the day we were supposed to leave.

And then last weekend my sister needed me.

Evidently, being a big sister trumps lifelong fears.  Who knew?

I think part of why I was finally able to pull it off was because it came up so quickly.  I only had a day to be anxious, nauseous, petrified, and so on.  Mainly, though, my sister's need was significantly more ... well, significant than my being a baby over something people do every single day.

Addie (who has been to Europe twice, never mind all the flying she's done in the U.S.) walked me through the entire process step by step, telling me what I had to take out of my bags during the security check, comparing landing to being in a car that slams on its brakes, and so on.  It was a huge help :-)

Addie opined that the security check is the worst part of flying, my mother felt that when they drop the wheels just before landing is (yeah, I was sort of polling people), but the worst part for me is sitting on the airplane waiting for it to take off.

Thank God for Valium and Stephen King books you've read so many times they're like old friends ...

Anyway, the flight down was fine.  A single mother and her 18-month-old asked if they could sit with me (Southwest Airlines has kind of a "cattle call" seating deal ... it's unofficial tagline is "When you can't afford anything else ..."), and that turned out to be a good thing.  I was pretty sure I would not totally lose it in front of a little kid, and I was right.

So I spent the weekend in Baltimore (lowlighted by the fact that I put my wallet on the back of a car then drove off with it), and that was all good.

The flight home, though ...

I should probably mention at this point that I have three serious fears--flying, thunderstorms, and snakes.

Well, there was a thunderstorm shaking its fist at Baltimore as my sister drove me to the airport.  In fact, there were severe thunderstorms up and down the entire eastern seaboard, to the degree that my flight was delayed.

So, yeah, the flight home was more like I'd pictured flying to be in my nightmares.  It was dark outside, you could see lightning all around, and it was bumpy and scary and not fun.  I took extra Valium.

And then, when I finally landed, Henry was late picking me up so I was very grouchy to him.

It's a male/female thing, I think.

He knew what time I left at since I texted him just before we took off, and he's also one of those ridiculous techies that has an app for everything.  I figured he'd be flight tracking me and would be waiting when I deplaned.  Probably with flowers.  At the very least, he'd be at the cell phone lot, reading a book.

Nope, he hadn't left his house yet.  So I had to wait for him to get there after being on the flight from hell, then lightning started flashing in the sky, and ...

Well, he spent this past weekend on a mini-vacation to Bangor, Maine with me, so I assume he's forgiven me, but I was pretty unpleasant.

Anyway, people keep asking me if I'd fly again.  The answer, by the way, is yes.  I'd still dope myself up pretty well and probably be on a hair trigger, but I would.  There is just so much to see and do, and I could Gibbs-smack myself for missing out on so much.

I've also learned from numerous unimpeachable sources that the flight home is by far the exception rather than the rule.

So, yeah, I faced my greatest fear, and the irony is that it took my sister being in distress to make me do it, which makes me feel like kind of a jerk.

But then I got thinking about it ... two years ago, I think I would have taken a train or driven to Baltimore.  I would be there if she needed me, but it would be on my terms because flying was just ... well, just too much.

And I've gotten a lot better about thunderstorms, too, in large part because my golden retriever is even more scared than I am, so trying to comfort her makes me less afraid.

Snakes?  Dear God!  I don't think I'll ever get over that one ;-)

So what are you most afraid of?  Have you ever overcome major fears?  How did you accomplish that?  

And here is a pic of Mary and my nephew Eddie, just so you can see how amazing my family is and why I had to go <3 nbsp="nbsp" p="p">