I’m not afraid of death.
So why was I terrified on that plane?
Maybe I’m fooling myself. And maybe I’m afraid of making a fool of myself. Or maybe I’m horrified of being afraid and don’t want to die horrified. Or…
I just know that flying home wasn’t my favorite part of the trip. Anytime the pilot announces that the stewards are to remain seated, dread takes over!
On this trip my heart sat in my throat for two hours. We rocked and rolled through the dark night. It was like a ride in on old pickup truck with no shocks on a washed out logging road. I didn’t look out of the window because I didn’t want to know if the propellers were slowing down. Finally I looked at the woman next to me and said, “I’m scared.” She said, “Me, too,” in a trembling voice. I told her that I was praying. And I was.
I was praying both for God to hold us in his hands and for me not to act like Shelly Winters if it got worse. I know that I wouldn’t go down in a dignified manner. While others might be staying calm, I would flap my arms and scream, “Help me! Help me!” Maybe if I were seated with a small child I could get out of myself and be calm and comforting. But the lady next to me was more the age of my children; fully-grown and capable of getting her own oxygen mask.
I tried to be a help, however. I looked at my seatmate and assured her that planes did not just drop out of the sky. She stared at me for a moment, and then agreed. Of course, that was just before the pilot announced that there was a thunderstorm ahead. Maybe planes do drop out of the sky when they are struck by lightning.
And another thing. Why is it that turbulence always comes when I have to pee? Can I hold it? It adds another layer of worry to envision myself clinging to seats and making my way to the little cubicle because I can’t wait a second longer. The stewardess would yell out, “The seal belt sign is on, please take your seat.” Would I ignore her and just keep walking? Wouldn’t she know that it was in emergency? Maybe I’d smile at everyone on my way back, letting each of them thank me for a moment of diversion in a nightmare trip.
Okay, Okay, so I made it. The seat belt sign went off for about 5 minutes before we started our descent and I popped up like a jack-in-the-box.
And after having said my psychic goodbyes to each one of my family, I’m here to tell the tale. (No one mentioned whether they got my message. I think they’d only remember if I had died.)
The plane didn’t drop out of the sky. It didn’t get hit by lightning. And maybe I’ll forget about it before the next trip.
But I know what I hate about flying. I hate giving up control. When it’s a smooth ride, I can sit back and consciously know that it is out of my hands. When there’s a problem, I want the driver’s seat.
In other aspects of my life, I’m the one in charge. I can decide whether to drive safely, to look for cars before crossing the street, to forego transfats and eat my rainbow of fruits and vegetables. I can die my own way.
And maybe when I’m ready.