Saturday, March 13, 2010

Welcome to your in-flight freakout.


It starts in my eyeballs.  At about the time she stretches the band out and pretends to put it on her head. Secure your own oxygen mask before helping other passengers. Her arms have skin that swings when she indicates the four exits.  I pay close attention (to the exits, not the arm fat).  I locate the exits and assess the capabilities of the passengers responsible for opening the emergency doors.  Not because I’m judgy.  Or because I think I can do it better.

      Because this is the way I am going to die.

The twitching is first.  Closely followed by the burning and prickles.  And then the leaking.  I am not crying. My eyes are. Without my permission.
My heart becomes a moth in my chest.  Fluttering and batting against my lungs…who, in turn, freak the eff out.  Sucking in shoving out.  Everyone’s out air. Ew.   All semblance of a rhythm has vanished and I am suddenly {the girl in 12D}.
I reach for my book and spread it open to a page in the middle- ignoring my bookmark completely.  The flappity-armed attendant spots me.
{Everything’s fine here. See? Reading. Just fine.}
I look down and the letters on the page make funny words. Oyu rae kudfce.   Lights flicker on and off. *dong.  
A message about a minor mechanical issue.  Waiting for “paperwork“.  Paperwork?  I envision a fax machine situated next to the panic button in the dash of the cockpit.  All aircrafts have panic buttons. I know this because I know everything  read about it in a Reader’s Digest once at my Grandma’s.

My book is slick in my damp palms, but I keep pretending to read.  Molars attack a wad of gum.  System’s all go. Mechanical problem resolved.  I’m too hyperventilatey to be incredulous.
Time for the fast part.
I’m breathing weird.  Like I am in labor. Hee hee hooo. Hee hee hoo. Rhythm!  This is good, no?   My shaking hands dig a tissue from my pocket to dab at my eyes.  For fuck’s sake, eyeballs.  No.  This is bad.
Everyone is quiet.  Or the engine is loud.  Someone’s getting a tooth drilled? I can barely see through the wet.
We’re sitting. We’re quiet. I’m leaning forward and reading and crying and dying…
The curtain sways out into the aisle.  A plastic bag, crumpled, rolls from under the seat in front of me into my foot space.  There’s gum squished inside it.
Up up up.  Air in. Air out.  The headline writes itself in my head.

 Mother of Two Dies Mysteriously During Takeoff:  Suspected Wonky Heart-failure

And then we are at 10,000 feet and mobile devices are permitted.  The faucet behind my eyes tightens.  Under my hand, the book is remembered.  Letters form words that make sense and I am reading now.  It’s over.

We eat pretzels and drink tiny amounts of water from tiny plastic bottles.  I organize my air-space.  Book, bookmark, water, pen, notebook, barfbag.
(just in case)
  Pages turn as I burn through chapters.  The girl behind me is talking about college to her mother.  So-and-so is so stupid even the “prof” can’t believe he passed the SAT.  I use the lavatory mirror to wipe away a drip of wet mascara with a complimentary tissue.  Look at you, you’re fine.   Not dead at all.
But the seatbelt is always on when I’m sitting.  Even when the light is off.  I am baggidy-armed attendant’s favorite.
Two hours.  Six chapters. Two tiny bags of tiny pretzels. And then the light goes on again. *bong.
And that’s when it starts.  
    In my eyeballs.


Will Burke said...

Graphic. I've usually had good flying experiences, but once I was in an air-pocket long enough to think "Oh shit, I'm in an air pocket." I prayed like a soldier that day!

JG said...

I'm sorry baby. I wish I could've been there to hold your hand.

I love you.

Ian said...

That was great! I really enjoyed reading that -- because of your writing, not your suffering -- just to be clear.

Before I went to USMC boot camp, I kept telling myself that THOUSANDS of people complete this successfully EVERY YEAR. That made me feel better about my chances of success.

Maybe you should think about the MILLIONS of people that fly EVERY YEAR and are bored to tears by the experience -- and have no fear. The only difference is that they (i.e. we) have done it more often. So, ask yourself - if they are so relaxed, shouldn't I be relaxed? Maybe you can psychologically make the leap to share their perspective.

Vodka Logic said...

ok, I have never been afraid to fly ...... until now. Good visual.

Regina said...

For god sakes, would you just hurry up and write a book already... I'd buy it, and im sure every blog friend you own will too......

Mme Paulita said...

thanks...a lot!

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear, me too. I'm absolutely petrified that every time I meet an actual pilot, I grill him/her about certain noises, practices, stats, etc. I disagree with Ian; I've been trying to tell myself that for nearly a decade now, and I (though not recently) fly quite often. I don't think I'll ever get over how horrifying flying is!

Deborah said...

The only part of flying that frightens me is the landing. I always think the plane will crash into the terminal. And just when, exactly, has that ever happened? They fall into rivers and lakes and peoples houses. They crash into each other. They never crash into the terminal. And yet - I am terrified.

Glad to know others have flying fears, albeit of a different flavor, as well.

Welcome home.