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How I Overcame (And Quickly Regained) My Fear of Flying



Part Two:

Fro:

My friends drive me to Seattle-Tacoma Airport (Sea-Tac). We hug and say goodbye at the pick-up/drop-off area and they leave. I had a great time in Seattle (Over time, I will come to realize that this week in August had been the last great hurrah of a doomed friendship). Again, I’m alone at the airport, and while I’m sad to see my Pacific Adventure ending, I’m excited to be heading back up to the air.

I soon come to realize that this trip is going to be different.

I’m standing in line at security and it’s almost my turn to pass through. I’m loading my items into the scanner bins, when my TSA agent suddenly walks away. And then I realize that all the TSA agents across the row of security terminals are leaving their posts. They gather at a middle terminal and stare at its monitor.

“How did that get through?” one of them inquires. “Didn’t you see that?”

See what?

Some of the agents laugh, others shake their heads, and then they all returned to their terminals.

What didn’t they see? Is this something I should be worried about?

I shrug and go on my way. I find my gate, take a seat, and jump up again. I really need a bathroom.

I find a restroom, and it’s empty, except for two women dressed in pilots’ uniforms standing by the sinks. Only moments after I take a seat in my stall, I hear one of the women cry, “I just know it! I just know it! I have such a bad feeling about tonight. I just know something’s going to happen!”

Um, What? What was that? Did you just say…

“I just know something bad is going to happen!”

Yup. Yes you did just say that…

The other woman is trying to calm her down and repeats some reassurances that nothing is wrong. Everything will be okay.

I finish up with my own pressing matters, and step out to a sink not too far from the women. The wall in front of me is a giant mirror, and I use it to skillfully look at their uniforms for any indications of what airline they fly for. For a moment, I forget about the distressed woman’s prediction of doom to pat myself on the back for being sly. I’m sure one of them notices that it’s taking me a few minutes too long to wash my hands. Finally satisfied she was not going to be my pilot, I leave the bathroom.

But her fear is still enough to make my stomach queasy.

The late night/early morning flight from Seattle to Chicago is bumpy, especially over Montana. It’s dark and there are no vistas of American beauty to calm my nerves as the plane tosses back and forth. Before take-off, the woman next says that she flies all the time and it doesn’t bother her anymore. I must look nervous. It doesn’t take her too long to fall fast asleep, though.

There are TVs playing, but I don’t have the two dollars to buy headphones from the flight attendants. I watch silent documentaries about Kellogg’s and old episodes of “Friends.”

We make our approach to Midway. The path brings us dreadfully close to nearby houses. We cross over the airport, and our plane is seconds from touching down. We are so close.

But at the last possible moment, the pilot suddenly aborts the landing and pushes the plane back towards the sky. I am forced back into my seat and the plane is as vertical as it can get. All the lights and TVs go out, and the plane starts shaking so bad, I’m convinced the hull is about to tear into pieces. I can feel the plane struggling to go, as if it doesn’t have the energy to pull this off. The seasoned flyer next to me is wide awake now and gripping her chair.

The plane jerks to the side. Those houses around the airport are now beside my head and very far down. The plane levels then wrenches to the side again. We level again, and again we turn. The plane is still shaking, the lights are still out, the children have even stopped crying.

Deep breathes…

I think I am going to die, but I don’t bother to dwell on this. Everything is so immediate now.

Then the lights return. The engines calm down, and we make another approach. This time we make our landing just fine and pull into our gate. The walkway is broken and we wait another twenty minutes for steps to be rolled up to our plane.

Finally, we are allowed to exit. As we all head towards the door, the man ahead of me asks a flight attendant, “What happened?” She leans in to tell him that a truck drove in front of our plane just before it was to touch down.

We almost hit the truck, which probably would’ve caused the plane to skid and crash.

I could be dead.

I ponder this notion as I run like hell for the nearest bathroom.

I board the last flight of my trip as the sun comes up. I’m a nervous wreck. I spend the next hour and a half talking to (or, really, at) the man sitting next to me.  He made the mistake of telling me it was his first trip to Philadelphia and I can’t help myself. Talking makes me not think of plummeting into the ground or crashing on runways, and the poor man hears every fact he never wanted to know about my hometown. We exchange e-mails after landing, but of course we never talk again.



The BEST holidays

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