Confessions of a Nervous Flyer
Do You Have a Love/ Hate Relationship with Flying?
A Flight of Fancy
However well I prepare myself for a flight beforehand it's always that terminology at the airport which gets the better of me. Surrounded by big bold notices that say 'Departure lounge', 'Final destination', and 'terminal building' I just can't help my imagination taking off on its own flight of fancy before I even board the plane. Now a fertile imagination is a wonderful thing and it can help you cope with reality when times are bad, but it has a more sinister side, often alerting you to the possibility of what could happen if things go wrong, even when you don't want to be alerted. Unimaginative folk are at a distinct advantage here; herded through the check-in like a flock of docile sheep, their minds are at ease, confident in the knowledge that things will be all right.
I'm The Ultimate Pessimist When it Comes to Flying
But not me, the ultimate pessimist when it comes to flying. If I could just arrive at the airport and get on the plane straight away I'm sure I'd be fine - at least until it's time to take off - but it's the sitting there, watching all the other planes depart safely and somehow convincing myself that mine will be the one that messes up. I'll glare at my flight number on the monitor; almost willing the figures to add up to thirteen and when I eventually board the plane every little thing is material for a cataclysmic scenario.
Take my last flight for instance: the pilot addressed the passengers in an Irish accent which I immediately found unnerving, not that I have anything against the Irish, nothing at all, at all. And then I panicked because I'd misplaced my St. Christopher - will it be just as effective in my suitcase or should I have put it in my hand luggage? I deliberated. After that, my mind just went into overdrive. What if the pilot gets D.V.T? My seat is nowhere near an exit; I won't stand a chance in the "unlikely event of an emergency." I told myself that I'm never pestered by such gloomy thoughts when travelling by car, bus or train, which is illogical since all forms of transport carry some risk and everyone has to entrust their life to others every day. But on a plane, the ground is a long way off and you don't have a parachute! mocked the sarcastic alter ego who was to be my constant companion throughout the flight. I assured myself that it's no use bothering about things I have no control over. But you did have control; you didn't have to get on this plane in the first place! nagged that inner voice again.
Do I gain some masochistic thrill from putting myself through this mental torture? No, I don't think so. For me, the two days prior to flying are fraught with tension. I don't enjoy my food, I sleep badly and I gradually become a nervous wreck. The thing is I never used to be like this. Why have I changed? Should I see a psychiatrist? I pride myself on being my own analyst and always manage to sort myself out, but this is a tough one.
Before becoming a parent I would take everything in my stride, but I'm now convinced that having children takes all the fun out of life. Instead of being carefree, as in younger days, I now have four other people to worry about. And kids are fearless when it comes to flying so I feel obliged to do their share of the worrying too.
I do try to combat my despondency with statistics; flying is the safest form of travel - you are far more likely to die in a car crash. I know I should put my trust in the pilot, the co-pilot, the flight engineer and the air-traffic controllers; together with all that wonderful technology, they do a magnificent job.
It seems I have two alternatives: I can remain at home, never go anywhere and grow old bemoaning the fact that I haven't seen much of the world, or I can escape to the sun several times a year and live a little at the risk of dying in an air disaster. As I write this, safely ensconced in my study that seems a fair trade in which the benefits far outweigh the risks. But when I'm writing my thoughts down on a plane, I'm bombarded with an entirely different set of emotions. Who will finish my novel if the plane-crashes? Assuming it's worth completing that is. Who will clear my cluttered garage? And who's going to look after my elderly Mother? (If she doesn't top herself when she discovers her only daughter and all her grandchildren have predeceased her). I can't concentrate enough to read, my hands are too shaky to write anything legible and eating the in-flight meal is something I'd rather avoid. I just can't relax enough to do anything, so there's no chance of me ever becoming a member of the "Mile High Club," not that there's much room for contortions of a sexual nature in the confines of the aircraft toilet - at least not for someone of my dimensions.
Now let's put things in perspective here. I know a bit about planes and I even went for a flying lesson once, so you could argue that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But why is my attitude so dramatically different from what it was years ago? If anything, air-travel is safer now with computerisation and accurate simulation etc. Maybe I've just lost faith in everything and everyone. Nowadays I expect things to go wrong although I'm pleasantly surprised when they don't. How can I rid myself of this cynical reasoning? These days a transatlantic flight is too daunting a thought for me even to contemplate; I barely coped with the two-hour flight to Majorca. And flying home was far worse, knowing that we were heading into a violent storm and would be landing at East Midlands in severe winds
Worry can be a killer too, so why do I let myself get so stressed? How do the air-hostesses deal with flying nearly every day? Does it become mundane, like any other job? Watching them on the flight back from Majorca, the answer was obvious - they're far too busy to worry. But I just sat there doing nothing and had plenty time to ponder all the possibilities of my demise: mid-air collision; engine failure; overshooting the runway... disastrous encounter with an alien spaceship.
We hit a patch of severe turbulence over the English Channel and I found myself praying to God, Allah and any other deity who cared to listen while clutching my St. Christopher (which had been in my pocket all along). All that was pretty good going for an agnostic, don’t you think? And since I was in one of my rare religious moods it occurred to me that even someone as close to God as the Pope might have a fear of flying... well, he always kisses the ground when he gets off a plane doesn't he?
Eventually, my plane landed safely and I could breathe easy again, marvelling at the fact that I'd been given a new lease of life.
The following day, unpacked and already complaining about the inclement British weather, I went into town to re-stock the freezer. With ample time to spare before catching the next bus home, guess where I ended up? The travel agent, of course. "Got any late deals for Christmas?" I asked as I thumbed through a stack of enticing brochures, my fear of flying, temporarily forgotten.
Frequent Flyers Enjoy Flying More as They're not as Nervous as Others Might be!
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How to Cope with Fear of Flying
Watch this Video if you Have a Fear of Flying
Do you confront your fear of flying or stay at home and be bored?
© 2015 Stella Kaye