In just a few hours, I’ll board the plane to go see my dad and friends. I’m absolutely looking forward to being there. Just not to flying there. Well, I’m not so much afraid to fly as I am afraid to crash. (I had to go there, didn’t I?) I’ve been flying steadily since I was five years old—I earned enough miles for a free ticket by the time I was twelve. Yet, I’m the girl who still looks over the cardboard safety manual when I take my seat. I check around the aircraft for my nearest exit. I watch the flight attendants clip and unbuckle safety belts and lower oxygen masks because, despite having seen this demonstration hundreds of times, you never know. Even with all that prep, I, an ambivalent agnostic, compulsively recite a Hail Mary (changing “hour of our death” to “hour of our flight”) and the Lord’s Prayer as we speed up the runway, praying also that the chatterbox in Row 21 isn’t still talking on her cell phone and screwing up my plane’s radar during takeoff. My knuckles go white from clutching the armrest too hard, and I’ve been known to grab a fellow passenger or two whenever we hit a pocket of turbulence. Trust me, the older I get, the less endearing it is.
And I’m smart enough to understand that airplane travel is way safer than getting in the car and driving there. I can rationalize that it’s better to trust a pilot with years of experience at the controls instead of someone like me whose flight training consists of catching late night “Airplane” reruns on AMC. Plus, I should find some measure of comfort in knowing that, should there be any malfunction or, say, run-in with a flock of geese, the Hudson River has been unofficially designated a safe landing strip. Yet that doesn’t stop me from hugging my husband a little tighter or giving him an extra long kiss as I head out the door because, well, you never know.
Of course, once I’m in the air, once we’ve hit our altitude and are smoothly soaring towards our destination, once the drink cart has been passed around, I lighten up and ask myself, “Why don’t I do this more often?” I mean, aside from the long security checkpoints, the annoying flyers, the baggage fees, and the lost luggage, traveling can be fun. I like the convenience of going 900 miles in less than two hours, staying for a few days, and then coming home. Imagine if this had been a hundred or two hundred years ago, not only would it take days or weeks to cover that distance, guests would have to stay for a month or two just to justify traveling that far. If you’ve ever read a Jane Austen novel, you know what I’m talking about.
Someday soon, I hope physicists find a way to beam people a la “Star Trek” to their desired destination. If that were the case, I’d have dinner with each of my parents once or twice a month. I’d grab far off friends for an impromptu coffee. And I’d probably go explore exotic locations. Of course, knowing how I am, I’d probably freak out about that whole molecular breakdown and reassembling of my matter bit. I’ll worry about that when the time comes, I guess.
So for now, say a few good thoughts for a safe flight and a top-notch pilot, and I will see you all very soon.