Airplanes. The metal birds of the sky. Winged machines that defy all known laws of physics (1). Man's Greatest Invention (2).
I have many thoughts on them.
Most of these thoughts conclude with the phrase "And then we all crash and die".
I am not a huge fan of flying, you might say. You might say that, given my propensity for travel, that might be a bit of an issue. You might be correct.
Planes are where my natural optimism and positivity go to die.
Why? Because from the moment the plane's engines kick in like the roar of...something with huge engines (I'm not a poet. Lower your expectations.) (3) until the moment the plane's wheels touch the ground at the end of our harrowing journey of stress, I am certain- CERTAIN- beyond any doubt, reasonable or not (usually not), that the plane is going to spontaneously plummet into the earth/ocean/desert/children's orphanage, I don't know; burst into flames; and then the world will be down one 20-something travel blogger, which is the most tragic thought of all. I just know that if I look out the window during take off, and watch the ground fall away, that suddenly the plane will, like, just turn off, like an iPod, and freefall to its ultimate demise. By looking out the window, I will become the Harbinger of Death. I do not look out the window.
I have no basis on which I hang my hat of aviophobia. I am an educated woman who is fully aware of the concepts of flight and lift and the statistics of plane crashes vs. car crashes and the vast gulf of difference between the two. However, that does not matter to my brain. My brain simply does not comprehend how what is essentially a giant metal tube stays 35 000 feet up in the air without falling down immediately. My brain thinks it is entirely reasonable to spastically grab the arm of the poor stranger next to me as we mercilessly plummet (see: land in a controlled manner by seasoned pilots who know what they're doing, thank you very much) towards the earth in anything but the smoothest of descents. My brain, when the aircraft hits the -slightest- amount of turbulence, immediately begins composing a mental copy of my Last Will and Testament (4).
A minor bump in the air? The engine probably just fell off. We tilt slightly to one side? We clearly just lost a wing. The pilot flashes the seatbelt sign at any point in between takeoff and landing? Prepare thyselves, fellow travellers. Thy doom is nigh.
My favourite thing is the pilot's speech at the beginning of every flight, as he or she takes the passengers through a brief itinerary of what the flight conditions are going to be for the duration of the trip. If it's going to be bad, you can tell. They'll try to hide it, coat it in nice words like "not that bad", "nothing to worry about", "totally normal". They lie.
Pilot: Alright folks, welcome aboard Air Canada Flight 2517 to Edinburgh Airport. We're looking at an easy start to our trip today-
Well-adjusted passengers: How nice! We'll just relax, open a good book, and behave totally normally. All is GOOD in the HOOD.
Me: Easy start? Easy START?! What the HELL does that mean, START? Does that mean it gets WORSE?!
Pilot: Later on we'll be expecting a bit of weather at higher altitudes-
Passengers who have their shit together: Ooh! How exciting! Maybe we'll see some lightning up close from the windows. It will be beautiful, a truly majestic display of nature at its most raw and powerful.
Me: OH my GOD lighting will strike the plane and the wings will fall off and we'll all be electrocuted before we explode holy SHIT-
Pilot: At that point, we will experience some mild turbulence, but-
Cool Cat passengers, barely paying attention at this point: As long as it doesn't disturb our in-flight scotch, we're all good.
Me: JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL
Pilot: -but it's nothing to worry about. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.
Totally sane passengers who are of no danger to anyone: Done and done, my pilot-y friend. What a wonderful time we live in, that we can soar through the air like the birds of old.
Me: *has lost mind entirely, is trying to preemptively fling herself out of the plane*
I'm super fun to sit next to, is what I'm saying.
Now, before you tell me to go get therapy for my obvious mental instability, I still take planes. I don't freak out. I don't have panic attacks or anything like that. It's more of an internal doom radar that reveals itself in the subtle whiteness of my knuckles as they clutch the seat handles during takeoff, or the soft but everpresent swearing one might hear coming from my general direction the second turbulence rears its ugly head.
I have developed a solution, however: drugs! YAY!
On long flights (6 hours or more, generally) I drug myself up as much as is safely possible. (Hi, mum and dad!) Please note: as a general rule I do not condone the use of drugs or alcohol in order to combat stressful situations. However, stick me on a transatlantic flight and you bet your ass I'm having several gin and tonics at the airport bar and then popping two extra strength NyQuil as soon as I sit down in the plane. You see, then, half an hour later, the amount of fucks I give about the inevitability of my imminent fiery demise decreases by a considerable amount! It's like magic! (5)
When I went from Toronto to Edinburgh for this trip four weeks ago, it turns out I tried to record my thoughts on planes for this blog post. However, reading them back, they were mostly unintelligible and had such noteworthy instructions to my future self as "Tell them your thoughts on clouds".
Let me be clear, here: I have no thoughts on clouds, other than the fact that they're quite pretty from time to time and sometimes a crazy lady will see Jesus in them. However, apparently I DID after gin and NyQuil. Oh man, did I ever. I'm sure Stoned Me had a LOT of amazing thoughts about clouds. I'm really sad she didn't write them down, for now they are lost to time and sobriety. I DO, however, remember that I sat right by the left wing of the airplane and my first thought as I sat down was, "That's lucky. Now I'll be the first to know when it falls off mid-flight". Then I jotted down something about my cat Gandalf. Stoned Me has her priorities on point.
I don't know if my plane anxiety will ever go away. Sometimes I take stupidly long buses in order to avoid flying entirely. That being said, someone once suggested that I take a ship across the ocean instead and I laughed really, really hard and then explained to them that I would rather die in a fiery plane crash than drown in the middle of the ocean when the ship I'm in inevitably sinks in a horrific sea storm (6).
Maybe I just have a fear of dying horribly. Like, that would make a lot of sense. I GUESS. I just handle it worse than others. I'm hoping that at some point, my brain will just accept defeat and I can go back to looking out the window again. Until then, however, I will continue to horde my NyQuil like an anxious, drug-addicted squirrel, and keep my eyes on the emergency exits in case of my arch-nemesis; the Balrog to my Gandalf the Grey; Mankind's Greatest Fear (7): mild turbulence. Do not speak its name.
1) They...they do not do that. That's not how physics work. That's not how ANYTHING works.
2) What?! Who accuracy checks these posts? Jesus Christ.
3) Please note: this post was written at 3:00AM in an airport after attempting to sleep, and failing miserably- because if you've read my previous posts on here, you'll know all about how FUN that whole experience is.
4) This basically consists of my friend Kate getting my Lord of the Rings posters and my cat going to whomever he deems worthy of his time. He's taking headshots and resumes, if you're interested.
5) Magic: the drug for people who won't understand how drugs work.
6) I realize that Life of Pi is not the best sole example to base my entire perception of ocean travel off of, but too late for that now, logical person reading this. Too late for that now.
7) Okay, NOW you're just being hyperbolic. This entire post up until now was entirely factually correct, rational, and lacking in any exaggeration whatsoever. And then THIS? You made these nice people read through a post entirely devoted to your silly, common phobia and now you're just being ridiculous. I'm done. I'm out. You all deserve better. Mankind's greatest fear is clearly clowns.