Fear of Flying

While driving to the Palm Springs Airport, my parents and I commented on the winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour. 

“Wow.  Look at that tumble weed. It’s actually tumbling across the road. Ha! Ha!”
“Do you think those swaying road signs will fly off their hinges?”
“Jeez. Those palm trees are almost touching the ground.”
“Palm Springs is usually worse than Hemet.”
“Wouldn’t want to golf in this!”
“Never mind golf. How about… Oh. Sorry John. Sorry.”
John did not respond.
He was in his “pre flight prep mode.” That means no talking and definitely no joking because he “knows” that this flight is his last. To be fair, he has good reason to be anxious. 
One time, over Nova Scotia, our four prop plane lost power in all but one prop. When the stewardess assured John that all was well, then ran to her seat assuming the emergency crash position, he was not the only one convinced that we would die.
Then, there was the time we were landing in the eye of a hurricane at the old Hong Kong airport. I was sitting with the boys (They refused to sit next to John.) and John was beside an off duty stewardess. 

She tried to calm him, “Sir. Don’t worry. Let me explain. Two dings are only an advisory for the cabin crew to sit because it might be a bit rough. Three means trouble. ‘Ding! Ding! Ding!’ Oh! !Oh! AHHHHHHH!!!!!!! HANG IN THERE SIR! STAY CALM! DO NOT PANIC!!!! THESE PILOTS HAVE LANDED IN FAR WORSE CONDITIONS THAN THIS!!!!!! WHOOOOAAAAAA!….. That was pretty crazy, huh? Can you believe we just missed the entire runway? Sir?”
His fear of flying has lessened over the years with the help of drugs, rum, counseling, and preflight visualizations. Once we are seated, he will give his undivided attention to the stewardess’s pre-flight spiel, memorize the plane’s exits and grab my hand in a death grip. He will always press the buzzer before take off and the following conversations will always take place.
“Do you think it’s possible that I can move closer to the front?”
“Can I have a rum and coke? Please? How about making that a double?”
“I am not a good flier. I know for a fact, that in business class that you do serve alcohol before take off because I have flown business class.”

Once the plane starts to roll, he’ll go into his flight mode: accelerated breathing and heart rate, tense muscles and eyes as big as saucers. Windows, doors and overhead compartments will be checked. More than once. I will try to calm him, again, by telling him that the odds of us dying on the plane are less than us winning the lottery. He will still insist on keeping the plane in the air by clenching his stomach muscles during the entire flight. Periodically he will say or yell the following depending on how bad the turbulence is,
“What was that?”
“Did you hear that?”
“Do you think we are OK?”
“We’re going to die! Are we going to die?”
 When the plane lands, he will go into his successful landing mode: clap loudly and happily smile at everyone, because once again he has somehow escaped death.

We are now boarding for San Francisco. The wind looks like it has died down. I am sure we will be just fine. I know we will…. ahhhh, damn that John.

Shelley and John

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