I’m not a fan of flying. At all. There’s not much I like about any part of it except (obviously) the fact that it gets me to a destination that I must want to go to badly enough to endure the hours of being trapped and jostled and hurtled through the sky at alarming height and speed. I hate being crammed together with 200 other people, breathing their expelled air, hate all the terrifying sounds (seriously? This is 2012. Figure out a way to mask them), hate the absence of legroom (fun fact – I once popped my kneecap out of place while shimmying into my middle seat and trying – unsuccessfully as evidenced by my popping kneecap – to place my carry-on beneath the seat), hate the damn drink cart that runs over your toes &/or takes off an elbow as it passes and blocks your way to the bathroom (oh, the bathroom – don’t even get me started), and especially hate the way everyone’s heads bobble back and forth at the slightest bit of “bad air” (such an adorable expression).
There’s been flights I’ve taken that have been so turbulent that I’ve sworn that I’d never ever ever need to go anywhere and see anything again that I couldn’t drive to (Suck it Swiss Alps! I’m like 8 hours from Mount Rushmore).
So suffice it to say that for me to enjoy survive a flight, I need a few things to fall into place:
1. The bigger the plane, the better.
I know this sounds illogical given that smaller objects tend to weigh less therefore should be more successful staying aloft, but I’m not always the most logical person when traveling by air (shut up, Husband. I can hear you). I have been known to require prescription medication before boarding a small plane (and no, I don’t mean a propeller plane – there’s not enough valium in Anna Nicole Smith’s medicine chest for that to ever be an option for me – I mean a common commercial commuter jet that seats anything less than 6 across. If it has wings that fold up on the ends, give mama a drink. Like Anna Nicole, I’m off the pills).
Yet, for the record, I would not say no to a private jet with a private bed and a private bath and a private steward. If it ever happens, believe me I’ll learn to deal.
2. An attentive pilot (duh).
Obviously I expect some intelligence and sobriety in the person – people? computer chip? – who is taking responsibility for my life, but I also appreciate a little communication when things get rough. Literally. Just a little heads up about upcoming “bad air” is all I need to not gouge out Husband’s palm with my thumb over and over and over &/or start the bargaining process with the other person in charge. It’s amazing how one short announcement from the pilot about a little chat he’s had with air traffic control can calm my nerves (unless it’s going to be so “bad” that he also instructs ‘flight attendants to please take their seats’. Then it’s back to the thumb gouging).
3. A variety of tasks to occupy my time (and attempt to trick me into thinking I’m just hanging out at home instead of being torpedoed at nauseating speeds).
You know those people who board an aircraft with just a purse and a bottle of water? Or the people who sit down, buckle up and either casually flip through the Sky Mall magazine or just tip their heads back and take a little nap? INSANITY. No matter how long the duration of my flight, I need the following:
a. noise reduction headphones (to attempt to drown out those terrifying sounds made by wing flaps, air, and wheels)
b. at least 2 books (in case I get bored with one or heaven forbid – finish it)
c. 2 varieties of gum (see above)
d. snacks (sweet and salty…again, see above)
e. a couple of playlists on my iPod – a relaxing one for when the pilot has (hopefully) warned us of that awful air, and an upbeat one of favorite songs for when I can celebrate having made it through. “I Will Survive” may or may not be part of both of those playlists.
f. 1 – 2 movies and a couple of t.v. shows. This may surprise you, but I tend to steer toward light comedies instead of movies like “Cast Away” or “United 93”. (Except “Airplane”. That would definitely not make the cut)
g. a deck of cards to play with Husband. The fact that we haven’t played cards on a plane together since about 2002 doesn’t stop me from throwing one in. I may be a little superstitious (shut up).
4. An upgrade to first class (but of course!).
When this happens (either by choice if we are taking a very long flight – or by sheer luck of the draw due to Husband’s frequent flyer program) it pretty much cancels out almost all of the above anxieties (right now Husband’s bruised palm is dying to disagree). There’s just something about being in first class (free wine) that seems to relax me and (free wine) really helps take the edge off (free wine) my fears. And I don’t know how, but I swear, people’s heads do not bobble back in forth in first class.
Plus, in first class you don’t usually encounter what is perhaps the worst thing of all on airplanes – the lap child. Sure, my children took a flight or two as a lap child years ago, but they were darling, clean, well-behaved angels who delighted and enchanted everyone on the plane. Obviously. Now I’m older, my girls are older, and I have zero tolerance for misbehaved children on planes (oh, admit it – you do too).
We recently flew home to MN from AZ which is about a 2 1/2 hour flight. Now, contrary to popular belief (that I realize I’ve just perpetuated), I’m not truly phobic or even (to anyone looking at me on the surface) a high-maintenance flyer. On the outside, I’m a cool cucumber. Like many other things in my life, when flying I keep a lot all bottled up inside and on the surface seem to have all my shit together (but I digress…).
So, because on the way to AZ I volunteered to take the seat across the aisle from my family and sit by the stranger (Husband doesn’t really like strangers….especially on planes as he’s a bit (understatement) of a germaphobe. He also dislikes all children other that those he knows…which is another great blog topic for another time! I must start writing these down), on the way home it was my turn to sit by the girls and throw him to the germ-ridden stranger. As we board and the girls carefully scootch their way into the window and middle seats (they are all too familiar with the dangers of knee-popping) and I throw my lone purse on my seat, I see that Husband has won the airplane lottery!! In the window seat of his aisle sits a small girl, about 4 yrs. old who is kicking kicking kicking the seat in front of her, and in the middle seat – right next to Husband’s – is a rumpled, somewhat dirty looking man with an equally ragged and snotty-nosed (I can judge – it’s my story) baby boy on his lap. And to make it even better – the baby is crying.
Let me just go ahead and nominate myself for Wife of the Year – for I, one who needs a relaxing atmosphere free of external stresses in order to survive air travel, immediately took one look at the situation and knew without a shadow of a doubt that if Husband sat there he would be leaving the aircraft in MN in handcuffs for crimes against a small child. After about 3 seconds of him shaking his head and saying, “no, no…it’s okay…I’ll sit there” he folded and subjected me to 2 1/2 hours of:
-being thwacked in the leg/shoulder/arm by a sticky sucker
-no fewer that 8 read alouds of Caillou (if you had a child in the 90’s you are familiar with the whiny bald headed boy. Kill me now) and a lift-the-flap Clifford book (complete with the surprised shouts of “FOUND HIM!!” by Dad at every flap lift).
-full body rocking by Dad as he tried to lull baby boy to sleep. And I mean head-hitting-seat-in-front-of-you-rocking and full on side-to-side action where there was definitely an invasion of my 2 inches of personal space
-lots of cramming pieces of gum – yes, GUM – into baby’s mouth to distract him
-baby boy climbing up dad’s shoulder and trying to watch “Smash” which I was watching on my iPad. (baby got a bit of an education as he decided to watch just as Ivy’s shirt hit the floor. That got the Dad’s attention too, and I could see his eyes locked on the screen the entire time he was trying to distract the boy. Ew.)
-tummy-tickling and squealing by small-girl-big-sister to try to get baby boy to stop whining, which only added to the family volume and made me make a note to buy better quality noise reduction headphones.
Thankfully, we had a smooth flight free of “bad air” and minimal scary noises (except for the low growls that I found coming from me every time I got hit with that damn sucker). And my favorite comment from Husband – other than when he asked me if I wanted to come over and be his lap child – ?
“I so owe you.”
I’m thinking a solo upgrade on our flight back to AZ next month might just do the trick.
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