I was in a big metal tube about 35,000 feet above New York City last week when it dawned on me. There were not enough pretzels.
After the nice woman gave me a polite smirk that I’ve no doubt was the first thing she was taught at flight attendant school, she handed me two little bags, each one filled mostly with puffed air and pretzel dust.
Not enough. Because I wanted to cram them down my gullet so I might choke and pass out. Anything to take away from the realization that I was only a few feet of scrap metal away from a free-fall from hell.
Was I the only one on this plane thinking about the fact that at any second a bolt might come loose? That a portion of the rickety floor beneath my flip-flops might break off and I’d suddenly find myself spiraling down through the clouds still strapped into my seat and screaming until my lungs exploded, my pretzel bags clenched in my fists?
This is why they hand out bags of snacks. To distract us.
“Sure, we could all perish at any moment — but we have tiny cookies!”
Oh boy, you have Sprite, Diet Coke AND Coke? Oh, and I even get a tiny plastic cup full of ice? I’m sold! Flying is normal! People do it all day long! It’s perfectly sane!
Certain parts of the flight freak me out more than others. The take-off. The landing. The time in-between.
After we took off from JFK airport to Orlando and the plane made a sharp bank to the left, I immediately realized this was a bad idea. My inner ears inflated like balloons, my brain slid from one side to the other and I almost asked the flight attendant if the pilot would kindly stop this ride and let me off. Surely I’d have better luck floating in the ocean with the life vest that looked like it was made of Ziploc bags and duct tape.
My husband assured me things would be better once the plane leveled at 45,000 feet because my ears would pop. Oh goody.
What he didn’t realize was that would only give the freaky Twilight Zone monster enough time to stabilize himself on the wing and pull out that last wire connected to the engine.
It amazed me how no one else on the plane seemed to realize the constant potential danger we were in. My favorite thing the pilot says on every flight: “Ladies and gentleman, we seem to be having some mild turbulence. Please fasten your seatbelts.”
Mild turbulence? Oh you mean when the cramped tube we’re trapped inside starts to violently shake and rattle? Or when it drops suddenly, the engines sputter and it lurches back up?
“We’re going through clouds,” my husband assured me. Clouds? Clouds are making the plane almost break apart? If this is what the plane does when it encounters puffy white mist I would very much like to opt out of landing it on concrete at 300 miles an hour.
Nothing is more heart-thumping for me than the moment the landing gear drops and makes a loud grinding noise. You can never tell if the wheels cranked out all the way. Maybe they popped out only half-way. Maybe there’s only one wheel. Can a plane land on one wheel? That guy landed on the Hudson, surely this Doogie Howser pilot could pull it off, right?
No matter the outcome of the landing gear, I make sure I always have my iPhone all prepped and ready to take video of the event for CNN.
Another thing that irked me was how often I was told to enjoy this experience.
“Enjoy your flight!” the cheery flight attendants said as I boarded every plane. Enjoy my flight? Oh there will be no enjoying. A hot fudge sundae? That I enjoy. A good night’s sleep? Much enjoying going on there.
The only time I finally felt any slightest bit of enjoyment was once the plane came to a complete stop at the gate. Even the landings were filled with anxiety. One pilot slammed on the brakes so hard we all flung forward in our seats. I guess there wasn’t enough runway.
You’ve probably already figured out I did survive all four flights last week. However, I will never fly again. I will drive everywhere from now on. I realize this will make my lifelong dream of going to Italy harder to accomplish.
And I know all about the statistics stating flying is safer than driving. But I prefer to do my dying on solid ground. It’s more stable. Not to mention less motion sickness, inner ear implosions and Twilight Zone monsters.
And the pretzels down here are bigger.