I’ll Take 30 Tiny Bags of Pretzels, Please.

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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!

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Me likey tiny snacks. Tiny snacks make it all better.

 

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.

 

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More pretzels! Dear god I need more pretzels!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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133 thoughts on “I’ll Take 30 Tiny Bags of Pretzels, Please.

  1. I LOVE this post and would be delighted to be able to include it in an anthology of non-fiction short stories I’m compiling titled Slices of Life. Would you be so kind as to email me at russtowne@yahoo.com to let me know whether you’d like to learn more about this project?
    Thank you,
    Russ

  2. I’ve been flying since I was three or four. Back then, it was probably not as safe as it is now. But, they still haven’t found that Malaysian airline either. I don’t fly that often, and it is much easier to drive. But when I want to get there fast or if the place I’m going to is on the other side of the ocean then there is no substitute for the little metal tube. Hang in there.

    1. My first flight I was around 12 or 13 when I flew with my older brother to visit my grandparents in DC. I had terrible motion sickness and that’s probably what caused me to hate flying. Well, that and the fact that it’s just not sane at all.

  3. I take it you’re not a big fan of flying. My kid LOVES to fly. He loves to have to wake up at oh-dark-thirty to drive to the airport and then wait in lines to wait in more lines to sit and wait to board the plane. Glad you made it safe and sound to your various destinations and back home. I actually prefer to fly with my two guys. That way if the plane does go down, we’re together.

  4. Wait, are you sure you wrote this, or did you steal this from my brain? I hate flying. I think I hide it well while on the plane, but if people could read my mind. I pray more times on a plane than I do in an entire year. And as for flying being safer, that’s because there are more cars on the road at one time, than there are planes in the sky! So that’s poo. Anyway, glad you made it! Four flights, that’s A LOTTTT. =/

    1. I agree with everything you said, Lily. And that goes double poo for me. I think for me it’s the fact that on a plane I have no control, either. At least when I’m driving I can pull over to a Krispie Kreme whenever I want.

  5. I am no longer a fan of flying either. Although it would be necessary to visit Europe and England and all those places I haven’t seen. Much prefer to drive. You can bring all kinds of “what-if-we-need-it” stuff and don’t get frisked before boarding the travel vessel. Shivers…
    Hope you enjoyed the destinations after all that pain and suffering. 🙂

    1. Oh yes, going through security in Orlando was crazy! I had not only myself to worry about (taking off shoes, emptying pockets) but I had to get my two kids through security too. It was so stressful. Not what I need BEFORE I even get on the damned plane.

      I did actually enjoy Disney very much. The weather was perfect, high 90s, sunny and no humidity. It was a tropical paradise. Just wished I didn’t have to go through hell to get there.

  6. I laughed all the way through your post! Flying, driving on bridges across enormous bodies of water…no thanks…not my cup of tea (or Coke/Diet Coke/Sprite)…use to fly…always had the same thoughts you shared here!

  7. I’m not afraid of flying, but I’m terrified of running out of reading material on the plane. I can’t even begin to count how many crappy paperbacks I’ve panic-bought at airports, just in case the three books I already had in my carry-on weren’t enough to last through the flight.

    Things have gotten a little better now that I have a Kindle.

    1. You are so lucky you can read. I tried to read a stack of magazines to distract myself but it didn’t work. It’s hard to hold a magazine and grip the sides of the chair at the same time.

      1. I was very thankful I brought along my headphones because on one flight I managed to watch a great movie, The Secret Life of Walter MItty with Ben Stiller. I was so relaxed I even loosened my grip on the sides of my chair for a few minutes.

  8. I know what you mean about “mild turbulence”. It’s like when I check my Fantasy League Roster and find out my best player is out for two weeks due to a “minor groin pull”.
    There is no such thing as a “minor” groin pull except if you’re a pedophile, and that’s an entirely different thing.
    Or how about when my doctor told me I had a “minor” case of Congestive Heart Failure and wouldn’t truly expand upon his diagnosis.
    “Hey Doc… how would you feel if you’re fifteen-yea-old daughter came to you about a month after her prom and said she was ‘mildly’ pregnant?”

    But, look on the Brightside: you might have crash landed on a remote island with a polar bear and some huge puff of black smoke that roared at you.
    Or in Jersey.

  9. Doesn’t bother me AT ALL. In fact, the guy on the wing? We’re besties. He’s on my Xmas card list. Just because ONE TIME he messes with a plane’s engine, all of the sudden he’s a bad guy? People need to lighten up. As if YOU’VE never made a mistake before. Pfft.

  10. Darla, George Dubya nearly died choking on pretzels with his feet firmly on the ground. So there is no use worrying about dying in a plane. BUT there are a whole lot of things to worry about in going to Florida. Like terminal boredom from waiting in line for a ride. Alligator attacks. Too much golf. Those options were even too scary for Twilight Zone!

    1. Oh just you wait. I’ve got another post all about lovely Florida and Disney. Nothing but hundreds of sweaty, cranky tourists waiting in long lines to eat turkey legs and go on theTower of Terror. It was quiet terrifying.

      1. We took the kids in early June when they were 4 and 6 and it was magical….except that it was the hottest early June in recorded history and they were blaring heat stroke warnings in 4 different languages throughout the parks. I was Sweaty, Cranky Tourist Numero Uno.

  11. Get therapy – flight panick is an illness that can be dealt with up to a level that you can board a plane without constantly thinking of death. You will never ENJOY flying, but you would not fear it anymore.

    1. Or I can never get on a plane again. What I forgot to mention was I’m a little claustrophobic as well. (You might even say I’m mildly claustrophobic.) It might take years of therapy.

      What’s funny is I’ve flown many times over my entire life, a lot of flights from Portland Maine to Seattle and it never really bothered me at all.

      1. When it is no life-time-habit, you can still break it. What if your daughter once grown up has a family of her own in California? Would you then rather drive by car?? Or not see her for a long time? Not being able to fly might not have an impact now on your life .. but what about your kids growing up and going places – to settle down there?

  12. I love flying, although I feel quite nervous with it, but it’s that slight nervousness that makes something exciting, rather than the gripping fear which doesn’t (I get the gripping fear on some amusement park rides). But yeah, what’s with those pathetic pretzels?

  13. I love to fly. I was a late starter (1993) and despite everyone saying I’d suffer from boredom, I thoroughly enjoyed my flight from the UK to NZ 4 years ago. I went on my own, which for someone who usually likes to do a ‘test run’ beforehand was quite a feat! I should point out that I was met at both ends and did most of my other travel by ferry, train or coach. 🙂

    1. Wow, you were pretty bold to take that trip. I used to be pretty fearless. I flew by myself all the time back in college when I lived on the west coast (from Maine to Seattle) My last trip was to North Carolina six years ago with a baby in my lap and a hyper four year old. I wasn’t fazed in the least. I have no idea what happened to me.

  14. As someone who’s been a frequent flyer literally all her life (my first plane trip when I was a month old), I have to confess I snickered through the whole thing. I do share your puzzlement over the tiny snack portions though.

  15. I apologize up front for this one…..LMAO, all the way through ….. LMAO. ❤

    Should I tell you this? Probably not, but I will anyway. The very minute I hear the sound of a jet engine and I am comfortably seated in my seat with seatbelt firmly around waist, I fall into some of the best dreamless sleep I get anywhere and anytime. Depending on the duration of the flight, I usually sleep until we are at the destination gate. Now this might be due to the sad fact i have accrued over 3,000,000 flight miles during the course of my career traveling hither and yon and never ever travel in coach, but still the sound of jet engines knock me right out.

    1. Ooh. I am so jealous. So very jealous. I wish I could have slept for two seconds.

      I didn’t even mention in my post the fact that our flight from JFK to Maine on the return trip was canceled. Yup. So they actually took us away from the gate in Orlando, ( we were just about to board the plane!) and told us we couldn’t go to JFK (still don’t know why) and then told us the next flight would be the next day. And they didn’t offer to pay for the hotel overnight. So long story short, they did “upgrade” us — but not to first class (this was Jet Blue) instead they gave us seats with more “leg room”. Yeah, like that’s gonna help. Just give me more space to hate flying. thanks.

      1. Well at one point my mother-in-law had steam shooting out her ears and laser beams for eyes demanding they pay for the hotel and the “manager” still only gave us a voucher for a Roach Motel for 89 bucks a night. I now refer to Jet Blue as the official F*** You airline.

  16. Snoring Dog Studio

    Remember the good old days when your “last meal” on the plane was actually something that could distract you for more than a few seconds? When I travel by plane, I pointedly refuse those pitiful bags of nothing. I refuse to give up any energy to chew. I might need that energy to swim away from the plane.

    1. Speaking of swimming, it was not a good moment when I realized we would be flying the next leg from NYC to Orlando over the Atlantic. What if they had gone with the sandwich-sized Ziploc bag life vests instead of the more durable freezer bags?

  17. I think on some level, everyone is having those same thoughts. You can distract yourself for a little while, but the fact that you’re six miles in the air without a parachute is quietly terrifying. But as always, you made it fun with this post. I hope you had a great time in Orlando.

    1. You nailed it: quietly terrifying. There aren’t many times in life when you feel sheer panic bubbling just beneath the surface but are forced to pretend everything is fine while munching on pretzels.

      We had a fabulous time. Lots of sun, palm trees and strange little lizards darting all over the sidewalks. It’s like another world down there compared to Maine.

  18. I used to love to fly, until I had to do it every week for work. And then 9/11 happened and the security got “better”. Pilots used to be revered like astronauts, and now they’re treated more like bus drivers, and the whole experience is like that (with the addition of tiny snacks). I don’t like busses either. My gripe is less about the explody-falling potential and more about the claustrophobia part with a genuine dislike of people, who I am far too close to, crammed into this tube in which I cannot fully extend my legs. How was Disney?

    1. Oh god yes! I’m claustrophobic. Hell, I can’t even handle being on the inside of a booth at Denny’s. I need to have an escape plan at all times and there is no escaping a plane.

      Also, disliking people in general is a factor. Especially people who are practically sitting on top of you and inhaling all of your oxygen.

      Disney was awesome. Crazy, unbearably hot, but fun.

  19. At least you got pretzels. The last flight I was on was so cheap, they didn’t even pass those out. I got a small, flimsy square of paper napkin and I think we were supposed to chew on that as we enjoyed our tiny “complimentary (if-you=spend-$400-on-a-ticket) cup of diet Coke.

    How was the vaca? Death-defying flights aside.

    1. We were down there for an entire week and my favorite parts of the trip were laying by the hotel pool in the sun or going swimming. Also, the hammock beneath two palm trees in the far back of the sandy beach at the resort was my haven. The waiting in long lines with screaming kids and crying parents wasn’t the best, but my kids loved every minute of it.

      1. Actually, what you get in first class is a close-up view of the flight attendants freaking out about an engine problem. I learned that on the way home from Denver years ago. But of all the flights I’ve taken, there has only been trouble on two, and we were fine both times. We were still on the ground on the flight I flew first class on, and we got a new plane. And with the other one, we turned around and went back to get a new plane. All better!

  20. Hilarious! I actually don’t mind take off and landing but any turbulence has me praying and sweating. International flights are the worst because you’re in the plane for SUCH A LONG TIME. Also, my husband reminds that flying is safer than driving as well but it is so hard to wrap your head around. Glad you are done flying for a while!

  21. You bring up good points. All I can think about when I think of flying is an essay I read in David Sedaris’s new book Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. He writes about a conversation with a flight attendant and learns they have a secret way of dealing with all the people who are so rude and ridiculous on planes. At the end of the flight, as they walk down the aisle with a garbage bag, all they say is, “Your trash….your trash…” How do you they’re not really saying “You’re trash…you’re trash…”?
    LOL

  22. You are very lucky that you were not on the plane that I took once. About halfway through the flight, the smell of smoke started wafting back from the general area of the cockpit. Nervous glances all around, panic in the pit of the stomach. Long story short, the flight attendants had burnt their grilled cheese sandwiches in the galley (because THEY get real food, apparently). Sheesh.

    1. Smoke? I would have grabbed a Ziploc-bag vest and bailed at that point.

      I remember my most panic-inducing flight. I was about 18 years old and flying alone. It was on a puddle-jumper plane flying from Maine to Newark. It had just enough room for about three small rows of passengers and one flight attendant. He started to taxi down the runway and I noticed out the window one of the engines wasn’t on. I asked the man next to me if the engine was supposed to be working and he started panicking too. The flight attendant overheard and told us the other engine would be kicking on momentarily. That was the longest six seconds of my entire life.

  23. Ha, ha…this was a great account of your horrific fear of flying, Darla….no really, I’m not laughing hysterically at your expense….promise. 😉 Honestly, though, I’ve always loved the actual flying part of flying….what I can stand now is the hoop jumping we have to do to fly because of all the psychos who have hi-jacked planes. It stinks, so I don’t do it. Well, that and I’m too broke to fly anywhere, even down the street, if they offered a flight down the street. Maycee is so scared to fly, also. She has never been on a plane, but since her anxiety kicked in last year, so says she doesn’t want to fly ANYWHERE. So, we’re good. Cars, bikes, horses….these modes of transportation we can handle, and no metal-detector checkpoints to go through. Yay. Hope your trip was fun and worth the dreaded flight and lack of pretzels! XOXO-Kasey

    1. I would love to travel everywhere on a horse. (note to self: buy a horse)

      We were very worried about my son because he was super anxious about flying (he had flown before when he was four but didn’t remember it) He turned out to love flying even more than my husband does. My daughter loved it too, except for her ears hurting on landing.

      1. That is great (that the kids enjoyed flying). I really hope Maycee does, too, when we finally get to go anywhere beyond visiting Southern Cali, lol. Note to Darla, come visit Kasey on the Central Coast of Cali and ride horses for FREEEEEE! 🙂 XO

  24. I love flying as well, I don’t understand people’s fear of flying. When I’m way up in the sky looking down, and I think of the plane crashing I think oh well you can only die once. I’m not afraid of death. Death is fascenating. I just don’t understand why people are afraid to die. I mean I would never kill myself, but I’m just not afraid of it. Everytime I’m in a situation where I might die I think wow this might be my one way ticket to the promised land. But it never happens. Somehow or another I always escape death, I guess its never my time to go home. What can I say?

    1. See, I’m not afraid to die at all. I used to be, but not anymore. It’s the moments leading up to dying in a plane crash that terrify me, especially if those moments involve lots of screaming and falling. Not a big fan of either.

      1. Thank you for your comment. The way I figure is when its over its over for good. Its like going to a dentist office to get your tooth pulled. Not very pleasent at first but once you get that tooth out the pain is gone. I had two wisdom teeth abcess at one time I didn’t sleep for three days. But I see it like that. We never know when its going to happen, but when it does we wont have to deal with it any more. I don’t have anything to lose any way.

      2. Yeah, for me, falling is painless. Colon cancer, now that hurts like a son-of-a-bitch (I hear). I can think of MANY worse ways to die than in a plane crash. 😉

  25. I don’t fly often, probably 3-4 times a year. It doesn’t bother me, but I cant say I love flying either, like several have said. It’s usually work related so that’s never that fun, but I’m comfortable enough on a plane that I usually sleep through most of it!

    1. Gah. Must be nice. Even my daughter slept for over an hour on one of the flights! I just sat there nervously tapping my foot and trying to close the window shade so I could pretend I was on a bus.

  26. Pingback: Must Reads for the Weekend | Jess Witkins' Happiness Project

  27. Loved your reference to that Twilight Zone Episode. That monster probably diminished a lot of folks’ enthusiasm for air travel. The only time I found myself doing the white knuckle flight, clutching the arm rests, was when we were in a small plane flying from New York City to Syracuse. Yes, that was a bumpy ride.

    I don’t mean to laugh at your expense, but the images that popped up when reading your story really made me chuckle. 😉

    1. Oh please do laugh at my expense, it’s what I’m here for, Judy. That Twilight Zone episode is ingrained in my little brain forever, it properly scared the living daylights outta me when I first saw it as a kid.

  28. I like how you have no problems flying to Seattle. Really?! Seattle? I’m one of those people who claim they don’t mind flying but somehow…well, it was 11 years between flights. NOT that I’m afraid. Perish the thought. I just happen to like train travel. And driving cars. And motorcycles. Motorcycles are especially pleasant after the first 1000 miles. You can’t feel anything anywhere until you stop. And even then everything is still vibrating gently. And, just so you know, you CAN brave a cruise ship (bwah hahahaa) to sail to Italy. A cruise ship. Can you imagine? I can. But it’s late at night and I want to sleep tonight and have pleasant dreams.

    1. I think the flight to Seattle was okay for me for a few reasons: I was in my early 20s and so by default I had no inkling of danger, and I used to take huge amounts of Dramamine so I could slip into a semi-coma all curled up on my chair with the free blanket and pillow that they now charge a month’s mortgage for.

      I have never been on a train. I’ve heard it’s a bit hard to get used to the jostling around and riding backwards. As for motorcycles, I rode on the back of one once and absolutely LOVED it. But I can see where the nonstop vibrating might get to you. And the bugs in your teeth.

      1. Well, although is detest flying it’s not the danger in the air that makes me hate it…I block that out. I’m an expert of ‘I’ll think about it tomorrow.’ It’s the crowds, the cramped seats and the lack of amenities. I MUST have amenities if I am to live this securely inside my head. It’s hard to, well, some slobs call it ‘pretend’, but it’s hard to live so lavishly if there’s some 6’7″ goof spraying me with peanut shells and hogging the arm rest. At least on a train one can swan about, maybe with a scarf. And there’s a bar. So nuff said. The jostling is manageable. I find a seat on the lower carriage, fewer people, less sway and I devour books and bon bons, emerging only for the dining car and the bar. What’s two days in my life to get somewhere? It’s two days of reading and drinking and looking at scenery. Mind you I don’t have kids…forgot to. Darn it.
        Motorcycles I love but now, these bad old days, she’s just rusting gently away in the yard. Poor old girl. And a GOOD motorcycle never vibrates under one. Perish the thought. It’s smooth as glass. Mind you I’m not a Harley girl. I love me the Wings and Yamaha’s. ahhhh….

  29. Darla, I’m pretty sure the flying cockroach is the state bird of Mississippi. Meanwhile, I’m not afraid of flying except that I have the ear issue you do – but probably magnified a bit – so flying is excruciatingly painful for me. However, the ear pain is NOT nearly as painful (for me) as driving hundreds of miles. I abhor being on the road. The prospect of a plane going down doesn’t even come CLOSE to what I imagine would happen to me should the semi-driver in the next lane forget to look up from his laptop, cell phone text, and hoagie sandwich long enough to get back in the middle of HIS LANE! I would rather be dead than paralyzed. Just sayin’. 😉

    1. You bring up good points. I’ve driven across country twice from Washington to Maine (once in a span of only four days) so the trip was this long lonely endless stretch of highway. Still, I didn’t mind because I think my real issue is I’m claustrophobic. As long as I have an escape route I’m good, but with a plane there’s really no escaping unless you crash.

  30. You crack me up and because I enjoy your blog I just wanted to let you know that since I’m fairly new to blogging I was nominated for 2 awards and have nominated you with the Liebster award (I know you’re not a new blog but you are new to me) but I just wanted to share that I enjoy your blog very much! Thank you

  31. It’s like Alice and Wonderland, isn’t it? We need to drink a tonic to shrink us, then we can fit into the teeny tiny seats, eat their miniscule snacks, and have another tonic to make us grow full size again when the flight is over. Cracking up and feeling your pain simultaneously.

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