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The Flight Aftermath

We flew back from Tampa last night. I got to board the plane first using my disability pass. (I am half ashamed that I needed it, but very thankful that I had it as you will soon find out.) We sat in the bulkhead seats, which are the only seats I ever want to sit in. I cried during takeoff as usual. The baby was so upset. (Mommy crying. Why Mommy crying? Mommy, eyes, eyes. Awww, nice, Mommy, nice.) I was so ashamed to let my kids see me in such a state. I settled down after take-off, though, when the ride leveled off. I even managed to play a cell phone game with Big Girl. Until about 45 minutes into the flight.

It was at that point that we hit a little bit of turbulence. Nothing crazy. A little bumpy road. I took a deep breath and tried to equate it with the feeling of being on our boat on a windy day. Just an aside: I am strangely not afraid of the boat or rough seas. I actually enjoy some rolling waves every once in a while. So anyway, we’re in the middle of some bumpy air and I try and calm myself down. Okay, I think, it’s not a big deal. It’s going to stop soon. Still, my heart is pumping fast, my hands go numb, and my mouth is dry. My legs start shaking uncontrollably. Then there’s a “ding-ding” in the galley. Uh-oh. The flight attendant picks up the phone and listens to the pilot. For a while. When he hangs up he immediately gets off the phone and makes an announcement: “Sorry, folks, but the pilot has told us that there’s going to be some rough air ahead of us. We’re in for a bit of turbulence that’s unfortunately going to get worse.”

Okay, now I am really freaking out. A few minutes later the plane starts REALLY bumping. The plane goes quiet except for the three people behind us who continue to yammer on. Lest you think I exaggerate: The guy sitting next to us in the other bulkhead section puts his feet up on the wall to brace himself. The woman sitting next to him closes his eyes. Both flight attendants fully strap in. When they get up to clean the plane it’s super-fast — less than five minutes from start to finish. And then the pilot comes on the PA again, “Well, folks, I’ll bet you didn’t know you’d be signing up for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride when you got on the plane tonight, but I just wanted to remind everyone to stay in their seats. I’ve spoken to air traffic control, and conditions as we go farther north are only going to deteriorate. Please remain in your seats.”

I’m praying. I’m talking to myself. I’m shaking. I’m holding on to the top of my seat. Even Little Girl, who was a lunatic the entire flight, has settled down and started rubbing blankie on her face. Big Girl tells me her stomach, knees, head, and mouth hurts. She’s leaning on me and closing her eyes. My husband is looking over at me and trying to tell me it’s really not that bad. Really. And what am I making such a big deal over a little bumpy flying? The female flight attendant tries to make me feel better. “Be happy you’re up here on the bulkhead. It’s really terrible in the back of the plane. It feels like a roller coaster.” Thanks for letting me know. (And I again thank God that I got that disability pass that lets me board first and snag what I will now and forever refer to as the chicken seats.) But it’s bad. It is. At times it feels like we’re free falling in air. Only short bursts, but enough to scare the heck out of me.

The descent is even worse. It feels like we are getting tossed around — literally. We tried to look outside. No visibility. All we see is white clouds and the lights reflecting off of them. This is by far the worst flight I’ve taken as an adult. I just keep praying and breathing. But we make it in. We get off the flight. Everyone walks off the plane dialing their cell phones. All around us I hear people saying things like, “horrible flight,” and “really tough landing.” Ah-ha! For once I wasn’t the only one who was terrified! While waiting for my baggage the woman next to me confides that she didn’t think we were going to stick the landing. “I figured we were going right off that runway,” she says. By that time I am calm enough to tell her that I was fine with the landing because the worst that would have happened was a few bumps and bruises. At least we were out of the air. And I actually felt proud of myself. Despite the crying and shaking and overall insanity, if I was able to make it through that flight maybe I can make it through the next one a little easier. With less crying. (But I still want my disability pass, please.)

Okay, back to my regular columns this week. Tomorrow I’ve got a snack blog planned. Missed you guys. Happy to be back on the ground.

9 Responses to “The Flight Aftermath”

  1. Barry Jenner says:

    Wow – this is truly the silliest thing I have read. What a narcissist you are! You were traveling with your CHILDREN!!! Has anyone ever told you that you (as a mom) are setting an example for them? That you will make your childish, irrational fears their childish irrational fears should they have the misfortune to witness them? I feel bad for both your husband who must suffer with you and your children who must suffer because of you. Give your family a break and stop being the center of your own little universe. The best part is all this AFTER you blamed your mother for own your fear of flying. Really? Do you have any mirrors in your house? Do you like what you see? Oh, wait – you must. You’re a narcissist. I suspect I know what that “disability card” is all about….

  2. Julie says:

    I have a very similar reaction to flying (also from a very bad experience as a 4 y.o. child where I was in a series of air pockets where the plane dropped a considerable amount of feet 3x — even flight attendants were left screaming and one was even knocked out cold from hitting the ceiling).

    I commend you for flying at all and not letting your fear stop you from doing what you need to do.

  3. Barry Jenner is a tool says:

    Seriously, Barry, do you have any compassion whatsoever? Childish and irrational fears? Would you tell a diabetic that she was childish? Would you tell someone with cancer that they were being foolish? Because anxiety is just as much an illness as diabetes or cancer.

    And, um, fwiw, get yourself some grammar lessons. “I feel bad”?? I feel BADLY you moron.

  4. Jane Boursaw says:

    Karen – Thank you for posting that honest and straightforward look at something so many people find frightening – flying. I don’t think humans are meant to be thousands of feet off the ground, and that flight sounds absolutely terrifying. Good for you for getting through it. I’m sure you weren’t the only person crying on that flight. That sounds like a natural reaction to me.

  5. Maureen V says:

    Great article Karen. I love your honesty. Well you know MY craziness, now i’m driving to florida NOT FLYING. YOU are the furthest thing from a narcisist, if only the words were in person he would know. Please don’t let negative comments effect your writing. Thank you for all your informative information. Can you imagine what he would say about me? Not puting my child in school until kindergarten?

  6. kb says:

    Thanks, Maureen! And there is nothing wrong with delaying kindergarten. Don’t beat yourself up over it.


  7. kb says:

    Thanks, Jane. Yes, for once I wasn’t the only one acting crazy!


  8. kb says:

    Wow. That sounds way worse than what I went through, but it also sounds like it’s becoming more common — at least that’s what the flight attendant told me. She said this winter was especially terrible in terms of turbulence. (Remind me not to fly again during the winter!)


  9. JeffN says:

    Yow! Sorry about your experience kb. I’ve always loved flying, even when it gets hairy, but I completely understand where you were coming from. I think we all have our situations where things seem to get out of control and all we want to do is reel them in to a level that we’re comfortable in. The water freaks me out way more than the air (check out The Perfect Storm if you’re unsure why). I figure that I have so little control in a plane that no matter what happens I may as well enjoy the ride.

    Worst flight ever: flying back in a thunderstorm from Dallas to San Francisco. That was one angry bronco let me tell ya.

    That said, I’ve had many worse experiences with planes and airports than I care to recall where the flight itself wasn’t the issue at all. Strap yourself in. Put your seats and tray tables in the up and locked position, and pretend that you’re drawing a bead on some bogeys at 12’o clock 😉

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