Fearful flyer

All passengers of flight fuck me sideways are asked to form an incoherent line at gate 3, please.

Saying that I’m scared of flying is an understatement.
I’m terrified. Scared shitless.

Ugly but effective.
The night before, I can barely sleep. On D-day, my stomach is as tight as this pair of stockings I bought one size under, not realizing that fitting my ass in an XS was wishful thinking at best. My palms are sweaty and my heart races as if I had just run a marathon (keeping in mind that I never have gone over 3km without generalized panting and redness). EVERY TIME I wonder: what kind of masochistic tendencies made me willingly purchase that ticket, pack my stuff in an ever-shrinking suitcase (Mary Poppins really foresaw this one), get my arse to the airport, through security checks (read: a large female officer’s obnoxious groping), aaaalll the way to that tiny, crammed seat, next to the usual suspects: the wailing baby or the snoring trucker. Both, on lucky days.

This is particularly humiliating as I pride myself at being a relatively tough girl. Spiders, snakes and other creepy crawlers will, at most, get the stink eye for invading my personal space without presenting any formal invitation or taming presents. I held newbie nurses’ equipments when they drew 3 or 4 gallons of my blood for analysis. I held my ex’s hand and secretly snorted when his turn came. I’ve passed on anasthesia when I had to have stitches or teeth repairs. I’d get out of there playing a superhero tune in my head and walking as if I too was wearing tidy widies over a flashy pair of tights.

But when comes the time to fly, I’m a miserable wuss. Me clenching the armrests frantically as if it could somehow end up being a steering wheel is my interpretation of keeping it together. Inside, believe me, all I want to do is stuff my face in an unfortunate neighbor’s ample bosom and sob histerically.

I’ve tried it all, but seem to be impermeable to any form of reassuring mottos and routines. The fake blonde in the relaxation films just isn’t credible: hell, I’d speak in that calm, syrupy voice too if I was doing those exercises from Honolulu beach. Instead, I’m wetting myself in a flying can, wishing I was a fake blonde doing aerobics on a paradise beach.

Pills don’t loosen my nerves. Just my jaw and bladder. In a nutshell, I end up in a situation where my stress sources increase twofolds: not only am I stuck 3000 km too high in a gazillion-tons flying suppository, but should that thing successfully operate an emergency landing that would then require some kind of quick response from me, I’d only be able to flap my arms sideways while drooling abundantly.

Booze makes me want to ralph. Movies and books barely make it to my cortex. Statistics certainly don’t cut it: who cares that I’m more likely to die from a car crash? Am I in a car? Hell no, but I damn straight wish I was. Indeed: can I walk, run or jump out of an automobile? Yes, potentially (they do it in the movies!). Can I swim? My polar bear swimming levels certificates say I do. Can I fly? Last time I checked, I didn’t have a massive pair of wings sticking out of my rear end so the necessary conclusion is: absolutely not. And should my plane crash, I’d have a few thousand kilometres of free fall to think about the likely consequences of that lacuna.

So for years, I’ve been that gutless dimwit blocking the toilets for a suspiciously long time, only to get out puffy-eyed and snotty, instead of arboring that obtuse “yep, I just joined the mile high club; how is YOUR day going?” smile everyone in the lineup was expecting. I’m the one who would secretly hate the happy imbeciles who would be snoring before we even left the tarmac and ask to be awaken for dinner. I’m the one YOU would not-so-secretly resent for breathing heavily 2 cm away from your face while sporting that sweaty hunted deer look. YES, THIS WAS ME. Mind you, this is still me, to a certain extent.

BUT fear not, fellow wimps (and future neighboring passengers): there are some tricks that will keep you from punching that jibbering brat 2 seats away.

I wish.

Tips for the other passengers:

Just leave us alone.

Tricks for the average chickens (chickens don’t fly, do they):

I find that making the staff aware that you are an anxious flyer (other than by shooting them desperate glances) often helps. They know how to help you if need be and will pay particular attention to you towards the flight. It may be silly, but I appreciate a calming glance during turbulences. If something was abnormal, they’d know and it would show. And then at least I’d have a little time to stuff my face in that duty-free chocolate I purchased by the ton or jump my nearest male neighbor for one last roll in the hay.

One common mistake is made by many an anxious person: when one tells you to breathe, don’t take a huge breath…then hold it in. It accelerates your heart, thus your nervousness. The goal here is to slow it down, therefore to take a normal breath, then to breathe OUT deeply. Not the other way around.

Oddly enough, I also find it helpful to read about other fearful flyers such as:

Interestingly, through the cold sweats and the shaking, I still managed to laugh; the relief it brought, albeit short-lived, felt as liberating as these first three bites in a greasydougnut after a particularly strict diet (the ones that follow are too filled with shame to be considered). I mean, if you can’t hide your fear, might as well look at it straight in the eyes and tell it, with that squeaky, my-boxers-are-way-too-tight voice, to fuck off.

In that same line of thought, writing about my problem and try to laugh it off was equally helpful. For starters, I had to focus on typing on that small-ass iPhone typeboard, which was no small ordeal (and made me look like an ape, jamming his index finger repeatedly on an unknown object). Plus, I guess it also dedramatized the whole situation I was in.

The last trick may make you look funny (this is a clear understatement), but it works for me so haters are kindly invited to choke on their comments. You should know I’m particularly scared by take off (it marks the beggining of a looong agony and is particularly bumpy); however, I discovered that placing yourself in a brace position (NO, I WAS NOT ANTICIPATING, I WAS JUST TRYING TO GET SOMETHING my Ativan tablets IN MY BAG, OK?) made me less sensitive to the bumps and turns of the plane. It just felt steadier this way. Mind you, to avoid the awkwardness of this stance, I now fake looking for stuff in my bag or lacing a shoe. Ok, lacing your shoe for 30 minutes may look suspicious, but I prefer to expose my buttcrack for a little while in that posture than to sit so straight on my seat that people start to think I’m dangerously constipated (remember how pressure changes in the cabin when in high altitude? Yeah, now you understand why this might be a daunting thought for fellow travellers).

For the twits who don’t read the safety instructions over and over again, here is what the brace position looks like:

Image is a courtesy of http://lettersinarow.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/travelling-tales-come-fly-with-me/

So now put your underwear over your pants, get your derriere in that plane and get someone to play the superman song.

Of course, if you have more tricks in your pocket, PLEASE share them! One is never too knowledgeable in a plane.