Saturday, July 7, 2012

High Anxiety (Richmond, VA)

I hate to fly. Surrendering control to somebody who might have suffered a bad night's sleep, who might have a hangover or be taking meds (Warning: You may become drowsy. Do not operate heavy machinery or even think of piloting a plane within four months of taking this medication), who might be revisiting a heated argument with a spouse, or who might be holding a grudge against employer or colleagues or the the world, does not put me at ease. I know that I'm statistically safer on a Boeing than in a Buick, but call me irrational -- I still think that if I am already on the ground, rather than diving into it, I'll have a better shot at walking away from a crash.

So, during take off and landing and anytime I'm conscious in-between, I'm white-knuckling it. Sweat trickles down my back. My hands are clammy. My face is ashen.

 I always listen attentively to the flight attendant's instructions. I securely fasten my seat belt. I note the exit doors in front of and behind me. In case the lights along the aisle do not come on, I count the rows to the nearest and next-nearest exits (because if the nose of the plane meets a mountain, the closest doors might not open). I mentally rehearse the steps to adjust the mask that will drop down if we experience a loss of cabin pressure, which would, by its very dropping, precipitate my rapid, panicked breathing which would, in turn, surely suck up every molecule of oxygen in the airplane and probably the universe. I try not to focus on that remark about  the oxygen bag not inflating, but I can't help but imagine my face reddening and my eyes widening as I gasp myself to death, should it malfunction. I resist the urge to check if that is really a flotation device or if it's just a seat cushion, made of cheap fabric. I refrain from removing it to test its float-ability in the toilet, although I have an overwhelming desire to do so.

As  my uneasiness turns to queasiness, the person sitting next to me is requesting a change of seat. This is a shame, because if he would only speak to me, I would feel better and most likely not dig my fingernails into the fleshy part of  his forearm.

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