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July 26, 2009

Fear of Flying

I intended to write today's blog on a totally different subject.

But, in my comic book strip of a life, things never happen quite how I intend so I've changed gears and the other post will have to wait. Sorry, Mr. D. You got a reprieve.

I flew from Houston to Los Angeles today for a week long work trip. I've flown my whole life, all across the globe, but I still don't like it. I've gotten better at it, I accept it, but there is just something to me that feels completely unnatural about being 35,000 feet in the air. I think today I earned my wings though. I earned something, that's for sure.

A few things you never really want to hear on a plane:

1.) Over the intercom, from the Captain: Sorry for the slight delay, we've had a maintenance issue, nothing serious, I promise, we'll be leaving in a jiffy.

Yep, to me that is just TMI, okay? Like I really need to know that I am now officially trapped on a jumbo jet with 100+ other people that has a 'maintenance issue?' He might as well have said, 'we're leaving as soon as we fix the broken wing, nothing big.' Note to all Captains on big flying jets: customers don't want to hear that there are maintenance issues. Just lie and tell us that the runway is backed up. If there is a maintenence issue and the plane goes down, no one will care anyways that you were kind enough to warn us ahead of time.

2.) Following the Captain's honest confession about the state of our plane, the very nice woman next to me who was about my age, flying to California for a training, looks at me and says: 'I've never flown before. Ever. I'm a little nervous.'

Whoa buddy, she wasn't kidding. Bless her heart (which is so not something I would normally say, but she really needed it,) she was a mess. I spent a good two hours of our 3 hour flight, most of it during take off and landing, trying to a.)keep her calm and b.)keep her previous meals out of my lap.

Now, those of you who know me well should right about now either be dying laughing, or dying of shock, or both. Yes me, Shannon, the person who hates to fly more than just about anyone and has white knuckled many flights after downing 3 beers in the airport bar and 2 little bottles of wine on the plane, spent two very calm hours trying to convince this woman we were not all gonna die, and she was not gonna lose her lunch on me. I even impressed myself. I used every fear of flying speech I normally need to tell myself, right on her.

She was so sweet, she really was. But there is only so far you can scooch away from someone sitting next to you in coach. I was by the window, she was in the middle seat.

This was a smooth flight. But, she was greener than Kermit the frog and I was thinking, one small bump and it's either me or the nice guy to her right and I hope she points his way. I mean it was really close, she sweated, she held her hand over her mouth, I prayed. I was really, really thinking we were about to see Linda Blair in coach.

And all I could think was, if she loses it, I might lose it next and we'll have a domino puke session 35,000 feet in the air cause who knows how the people around us are gonna react.

We got through it. Her meals remain a mystery. Whew.

3.) Last thing you don't wanna hear on a plane trip? 'The bathroom door locks don't work.' Now it's a good thing to hear that before you go in that crawl space of germs to try and use the restroom.

It's not a good thing to hear once you are in there trying to use the facilities and suddenly realize that although the latch is slid to the right in what is supposed to be a locked position, not only does the door not lock, it really doesn't stay shut.

And guess how you find that out? After about three people walk in while you are peeing (or trying to in those horrific little closets with the nasty green water and you can almost feel the germy eyes staring back at you...)

You know how airplane bathrooms are. People lined up, squishing by each other and the stewardesses to get by. Apparently no one mentioned to the staff that the lock was broken until yours truly made it in there.

I tried to consecutively pee and push the lock back into place(sorry for the details) but it wasn't happening. I gave up, let go of the lock, and shocked the sam hell out of 2 more people who started to open the door and saw my smiling face looking back up at them.

Then I tried to hold the darn lock and get my blue jeans up and buttoned and if you ever find yourself in this situation, I can tell you first hand, it's damn near impossible to hold an airplane bathroom lock and button blue jean shorts.

By that time, I could of cared less and let go of the lock so I could get out of there. Finally, I was able to get out of the bathroom with no toilet paper hanging out of my pants, and everything zipped and buttoned, and went and sat back down next to my new green friend who was sipping a Sprite and taking deep breaths.

All I could think about was, when did I miss the lady with the wine cart? And is she coming back?

(QOTB: What's the worst, strangest, or weirdest flying experience you've had. And no we don't wanna know if you're a member of the Mile High Club.)

PS...I've never been to Los Angeles before. Can someone tell me what to do if an earthquake hits and you're on the tenth floor of a hotel? I'm assuming getting the doorway won't do much good?
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jdemott on July 27, 2009 said...

My worst flying experience was coming back from Puerto Vallarta in 1988.

My plan for the last day of my trip was to get up the courage to try parasailing. (Shannon, you know my ocean phobia, so you know that sailing over Jaws with nothing but a parachute and the resort boat driver's need for speed to protect me would have been a big deal for me.) I convinced myself I could do it.

However, I woke up that last morning with an immediately obvious case of Montezuma's Revenge. My stomach was just wrong. Parasailing was out. I'll save you the visuals I imagined. But, I will warn any travelers to Mexico: stick to the resort restaurants or those that the resort concierge approves for you. I ventured out and went to some place atop a hill for a view of the city and ocean. I ate lobster thermador for the first and last time. I stayed in bed groaning until it was time to go to the airport.

At the airport, one big, hot waiting area was crammed full of people. I watched a family argue with some official for what seemed like hours, over passport trouble (not sure where they were heading, as back then Americans didn’t need a passport to go to Mexico). I made sure I knew where the bathrooms were, dreading the thought, but never needing one. Still, my stomach gurgled, rumbled and clenched. The room slowly thinned out, over what seemed like days. I began to wonder if I was in the wrong place, as if this tiny, one-gate airport place had options. Finally, my flight was called.

I ambled outside to one of those movable stairways they use when you board from the tarmac. We boarded. I prayed. Not afraid to fly before that day, the thought of running down the aisle to one of those germ-filled (and, Shannon, you know that the only phobia that supersedes oceans is germs) airplane bathrooms, under these circumstances, terrified me. I was in pain. I grabbed the barf bag to be ready. (I never had Montezuma’s revenge before and didn’t yet realize the stuff doesn’t go out that way.)

Finally, we started moving. The plane crawled towards the runway. Eventually our turn came for take off. For years, I’ve prayed during take off, just in case (no white knuckles or anything), but this time it was different. God, can we just get HOME fast! As we gained speed, I began to feel calmer at last. Speeding, speeding, speeding. Slowing, slowing, slowing. WHAT THE… ? We reached the end of the runway on the ground!

The captain came on, “Sorry folks, we’re experiencing a minor technical problem that will need to be fixed before we can go.” HOLY SH…! Well, not so holy in my case. But, I wasn’t sure I could make it much longer. The air coming out of the vents was not cooling and we were in Mexico! They made us stay on that hot plane while the mechanics did their thing. The very idea of being in Mexico without all our U.S. regulations in force on a plane that wasn’t working, which no one realized until we were on the runway headed for flight, was terrifying, as you can imagine.

My medical state didn’t help any. Or maybe it did. I was so fixated on getting home before the volcano erupted that I likely didn’t spend as much time worrying about what screws were left off or what valves were left open as I would have otherwise. Eventually, we took off, and I made it home. Somehow, my digestive system waited until I made to my own bathroom for the first real experience of Montezuma’s Revenge. My intestines have never been the same. But, I’ve never had a flight experience that bad again either.

(BTW, on the news in the background, I just heard a report on the positive effects of probiotics, and I can attest to their value. Too bad I didn’t know this 21 years ago.)

jdemott on July 27, 2009 said...

On a completely diffrent note... You were in one of those tiny airplane bathrooms. Your foot couldn't have been more than a 1/4 inch from the door. Instead of trying to hold the door lock manually closed to "occupado" whilst doing your thing, why didn't you just brace your foot against the door until you were done and buttoned up. Any would-be pee-ers should have gotten the hint when the door wouldn't easily budge, without happening upon your smiling face. Just a tip for next time.

Shannon on July 27, 2009 said...

That would be because the door opened OUTWARDS. So not only could I not do that, the whole I time I was trying to hold it shut, it kept sort of inching back open.

Most of those airplane doors are like accordian style but this one opened outwards not inwards or trust me, I would of just stuck my foot up there.

Maybe this was the maintenance issue?

jdemott on July 27, 2009 said...

Oh... outward... duh. Sorry, I don't travel as much anymore. My image was wrong. But, I've never seen an accordian door on an airplane bathroom. What airline to do you fly?

Sooz on July 27, 2009 said...

Well, IN AFRICA, on a 12-seater plane . . .

Our pilot tells us we are right on schedule and since the plane is full we don't have to make additional stops, so we'll be at our destination in 30 minutes.

We'd been up in the air about 10 minutes when he turned around to talk with us (and yes, hands off the controls made me a little nervous). He tells us that one of the planes in the fleet was having some issues, so we needed to detour to another airport.

We land and there's a larger plane on the tarmac. I'm figuring we can't take any more passengers, so what the? The pilot tells us we are changing planes.

Turns out it was OUR plane having the issues. Thank goodness our pilot didn't have TMI-itus or that could've been one miserable, scary flight.

Donna said...

Ok Shannon one of my bad flight experiences: My two children and I were going to go to N. Y. to see the family for Christmas. We were in the line to check in with our flight and get boarding passes and all. This is before Internet tics and cyberspace. I have luggage, stroller, 3 mo. old and 4 year old at the time. Baby starts crying hating the stroller, ditch the stroller. I will buy another, cant hold baby, 4 yr. old hand, diaper bag,ect... I just remember having my arms feel numb. Four year old decides to have a melt down in the middle of the airport. She is lying on the floor crying. " Oh Sweetie please get up, we will sit and play in just a little while." Nope, just going to lay and cry. So I do the grown up Mommy postpartum blues thing and from no where tears come out of my eyes like what the heck. Can I just leave her with the stroller? This man with his wife and family comes up to me, picks up my dear little 4 yr. old from the floor. Says they are on the same flight and he carries my daughter with me and his wife and kids following him like baby ducks puts her in her seat on the plane, puts my stuff in the upper thing smiles and goes back to his family who are so well adjusted. Did he not see the "I want you forever in my eyes!!!!!!!!" Maybe want isn't the correct word. NEED is the word. Long story short baby starts screaming due to air pressure but all is good in my life. Made it on the plane with the same 2 kids and the help of a wonderful stranger.

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