I’m getting ready to do one of my least-favorite things: Fly. I am such a terrible flier that I once stood up and screamed, “STOP THE PLANE!” while it was rolling down the runway at JFK here in New York. I was on my way to a big trade show. I was a reporter at PC Magazine at the time. All dressed up in my new black suit. Carrying a briefcase. Sitting in business class no less! Do you know what they do when you make such a spectacle of yourself? THEY STOP THE PLANE!
And then the flight attendants gather around you. (There were many of them because it was a BIG plane.) Then they bring the pilots out of their cabin to talk to you. They don’t want to have to go all the way back to the gate; They’re hoping they can convince you to stay on the plane. The pilot shows you a photo of his kids while trying to talk to you through your tears. Then he hands it to you and tells you you can hold it the entire flight. As a reminder that he’s going to be super-safe so he can go back to his kids. And then they move you back into coach where a bunch of flight attendants and pilots are sitting flying to work on the West Coast. They calm you down. They make you sit in between a nice female flight attendant and a nice male attendant. By this time the rest of the plane is flat out pissed. And staring. And grumbling. But you are convinced. Sort of. Maybe you can do it. Maybe. (Oh, but it’s a six-hour flight. HOW can I do it?!?) So you sit there listening as Left Attendant and Right Attendant give you a running commentary. “Okay, so that noise is the engine revving up.” “Oh, that’s just the landing gear starting to come up.” “That bell means the flight attendants can get up and start preparing the cabin for food service.” (Back then you got dinner on a cross-country flight.) They hold your hand and talk to you. They talk about how safe flying is. They try and make you laugh. And somehow you get through it. You’re on the West Coast. When you land your VERY first appointment at one of the most fun trade shows EVER — CES — is with someone who shakes your hand and goes, “Hey, I know you! You were on my plane from New York!” And then you sigh. What else can you do?
Crazy, right? Can I tell you why I am afraid? My mom took us to DisneyWorld right after my dad died and cried the entire trip. Traumatic enough, but then on the way home we circled over New York for HOURS. My mom started losing it. Between my mom and the actual motion of the plane –SHARP turns around LaGuardia Airport — I couldn’t help it. I was violently sick. A six-year-old with no one to take care of her, completely out of control. Subsequent vacations and flights always sucked, too. Family fist fights. Getting sent to an aunt’s house in South Carolina for six weeks because there was no one to take care of us. And turbulence. Always turbulence when we got into the sky. Not to mention my own insanity: crying, shaking, sobbing, and being completely embarrassing. Ask my husband about the poor guy who got an extra special security detail because I thought he was a terrorist. Or the friends who refused to sit by us because they were too embarrassed. It’s that bad.
Okay, you might think. All that was a long time ago. You’re an adult now. Get over it. I wish I could. Oh, how I wish I could. I am TRYING. I swear. I swear. Anyway, if you see me walking on a plane any time soon, please forgive me in advance. I may cause a scene. I’ll try really hard to hold it together. And if not there’s always plan B. “STOP THE PLANE!!!”