Every time I board a plane I kiss my fingers and lay them upon the entrance. It’s sort of like sharing a piece of my heart with the vehicle that will thrust me through the sky to my next destination. As you can tell I am not such a great flyer. I mentally struggle with maintaining my composure while sitting on a very heavy piece of metal tubing hurtling through the air at 500 miles per hour!!! I was not always so fearful, I used to actually love flying. But in my defense I have a pretty darn good reason for this sixteen-ish-year-old fear.
Once upon a time while attending the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl I was invited to be a guest on a small private jet to the Grand Canyon. It seemed so luxurious and it happened to be my birthday! I accepted and boarded one of the six-seaters with great anticipation. I expected champagne, croissants and great views!!! What I had not expected was the worst turbulence I had ever experienced in my lifetime. Our heads were literally being banged up against the walls. My knuckles were so white from grabbing my friends hand beside me. You could see each of our relieved faces when our descent began until our pilot realized he was landing at the wrong airport! Really???? So up our little plane climbed again, as the clouds and currents played with us like a child with a mobile.
That was bad enough, but that was not the worst of it … Upon landing we took a lovely drive along the canyon and ate a delicious lunch at a window table overlooking the Grand Canyon. While eating lunch our jet group decided we would stick together and ride home unified, since we thought how could the flight home possibly be worse?
The return flight was smooth, and we were chatting and laughing as we began our descent until we saw smoke—yeah, you just read that right, SMOKE! The cabin was quickly filling with smoke and the pilot was calling for emergency clearance to land! With it becoming difficult for the pilot to see he opened his door ... Yes, his door!!!! We landed within minutes to a flurry of emergency vehicles!
Apparently a fuse blew and my friends rain coat caught on fire. They reassured us that we were really never in any danger—of course they probably weren’t counting the possibility of a heart attack.
That night while I was struggling with facing death combined with my gratitude for being safe, a plate of cookies arrived with a note, “Sorry for the bumpy ride!” And that my friends is when this sweet, grateful, kind-hearted girl who loved flying became anything but.
My other flying habit, the Angel Roll Call, I also credit to this experience. Every single flight upon take off, landing and turbulence of any kind I silently rattle off the names of humans and pets in my lifetime who now reside in heaven. It seems a way for me to focus and think. I believe that when I call their names inside my head they hear me and help keep me safe in the sky. I repeat this ever-growing list until I no longer feel compelled.
My final habit occurs upon exiting the plane. I make it a point to shout towards the cockpit an honest to goodness “thanks for getting us here safely” cheer because I really do mean it.
And in case you were wondering, each one works and really does make me feel more comfortable and at ease. Just maybe sharing this story with you will help a fellow scaredy cat flyer just like me.
Moral: Life events mold us, might as well embrace them!