I am a seasoned traveler. I have flown literally hundreds of thousands of miles. I don’t get nervous about flying, landing, thunderstorms, or even crashing. Flying in an airplane is no different than riding in a car, except that I get uninterrupted time to read a book. I am afraid of heights, but I love to fly. Flying fuels my love of maps and geography and allows me to see the world in person. There’s only one thing that ever makes me nervous on a flight. It’s weird and irrational, but my dear readers, tonight I feel like sharing it with you. Before I come clean, here are my “close” calls.
I’ve had 4 flights that I would classify as out of the ordinary on the safety scale.
- A flight to Vegas many years ago with my wife. It was late, we ran into a thunderstorm and dropped over and over for what seemed like forever. It was some pretty gnarly turbulence. There was a point where you just wanted it to stop. The drops were complete with screams and some pretty worried passengers, but we made it.
- A trip to New York from Dallas. We passed over the Mississippi River and all was well. Shortly after that, the flight attendants abruptly stopped serving beverages, and I saw the Mississippi River again, not a good sign. We had lost an engine. We returned to DFW and landed with a parade of emergency vehicles on the runway. It was a very normal landing, and we wouldn’t have known any different if the captain hadn’t informed us of the trouble. I do remember that the plane was VERY quiet the entire ride home.
- A week later we were giving New York a second shot. Plane takes off and about 10 minutes in, we lost cabin pressure and had to return to the airport for ANOTHER emergency landing. We dumped the fuel and landed with the same emergency vehicles, but again no harm done. FYI, we decided to just go home and not push our luck.
- A couple of years ago, my plane was struck by lightning on a late night MIA-DFW flight. It was loud, and you could feel the electricity. We lost our air conditioner, but other than the plane getting warm, it was business as usual.
Those are my odd flight experiences. There’s nothing too terrifying, but I have had a couple of out of the ordinary flights. I tell you this to set the stage for the one thing that I am honestly afraid of on a plane. Tonight, on a DFW-LAX flight, my worst fear became reality.
I do not like flying on a plane full of kids from a tour, choir, school, church, or any other kind of group. Tonight as I boarded the plane, I saw them. 30 kids all dressed in the same polo shirts with badges around their necks. Turns out these guys were on their way to Australia for a 3 week adventure. Why does this make me so nervous? It seems like when something tragic happens on a plane, there is always one of these groups on board. It somehow makes a plane crash that much more horrible when there is a group of kids who have spent the previous year saving up for some fantastic trip. I know it makes no sense, but I always think about it, and honestly have changed flights before when I’ve seen them. I always call my wife before I board and give her the bad news. She always laughs at me, and tells me what a dope I really am. She’s right of course, but that doesn’t stop my anxiety.
My flight tonight went just fine. The young ladies sitting beside me were very friendly. They introduced themselves and even asked me a couple of questions. They were nervous about taking off, and I did my best John Cusack impression and told them to wait for the ding and everything would be just fine. They talked constantly about silly things as I tried not to listen. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t something frightening going on.
They called me SIR every time they talked to me. Now, if I was only as grown-up as they thought I was…