fear of flying

23 Jul

This post has nothing to do with Erica Jong. Sorry.

We are taking our first family trip via plane next week. To say I’m an uneasy flier is an understatement. Usually, I need to be drugged and/or drunk to get off the ground. This hasn’t always been the case. When I was young, I loved to fly and did often, even alone, comfortably. People like to chat up children traveling solo, and I made a game of lying to my seatmates. Creating new, rather mundane (so as to remain believable) personas was a fun way to pass the time and put one over on the mostly condescending adults who always assumed I was going to visit my grandparents.
Even in childhood, though, I had rules for travel by plane. I never flew on an airline that sounded “American,” which excluded (obviously) American Airlines, USAir, Delta (for the color scheme, ha) and United. These rules have remained fast until now; we will be flying on Delta because tickets for three were about $1000 cheaper than on the cheapest “acceptable” airline. I’ve never flown Delta, but I think it’s safe to assume they don’t have soothing purple lights and fancy, well-dressed boys to serve my liquor ala Virgin/Virgin America.
Wah wah, you are probably saying: This is a first-world problem. And it is! Yes, I have the luxury of choosing from several airlines that likely will not kill me. This fact is little comfort to someone who, somewhere along the line, has developed crippling flight anxiety. I’ve read books about the fear of flying. I’ve looked at websites that offer explanations of “that noise” (as in WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?!) or simplified the facts of turbulence for someone who is not a meteorologist. The funny thing about those websites, though, you guys? They all have links to other “helpful information,” like crash statistics. And photos. And transcripts of black box recordings. THANKS FOR NOTHING, websites.
Since my fear has gotten really bad, I’ve solved the problem with alcohol. Easy! It takes the edge off enough for me to enjoy those purple lights and whatever’s on the TV in front of me. Xanax works even better. So well, in fact, that once, a sweet flight attendant had to wake me up post-flight to say we’d arrived. But here’s where breastfeeding your kid takes an unfortunate turn: no drugs for mama. And while I’d be relatively comfortable having a well-timed drink, dealing with the inevitable nastiness from paternalistic fellow fliers is not gonna decrease my stress.
I can’t overstate my discomfort with taking George on the plane. We’ve gotten him a seat of his own for safety, but I still feel irresponsible for putting him in what I consider to be harm’s way. The higher likelihood of being hurt in a car accident is no consolation, incidentally (lots of people offer this up — seriously?!). I hope that I’m able to enjoy the time spent with Nathan’s family, but I know that I’ll breathe a lot easier when our plane touches down — or rather, when it gets to the gate — back in Seattle. Wish us luck!

(Are you afraid of flying, too? Have you flown with your kid[s]? Help!)


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