My partner and I decided to go on holiday to Hobart, Tasmania. It was quite an experience and we had a ball.
...except the flight....
When we boarded the plane I did a double take. I have only ever been on overseas flights, never interstate. 747s and 767s were the scope of my experience. So when I stepped onto what looked like a V/Line bus with wings I thought there had to be some mistake.
During takeoff I came to terms with my own mortality, solved several philosophical dilemmas, found religion and finally accepted my place in the scheme of things.
It's amazing how fear can focus the mind.
I didn't want to play anything on my mp3 player for fear I would forever associate the song with the blind terror I was feeling, thus ruining it forever. I thought sweaty palms were a bit of a myth. Now I know. My hands looked like I had just washed them.
Here is a direct quote from me during the flight:
"my a$$ is in my throat" Quote unquote. Without the dollar signs of course.
Oh yes, and the Captain. The untouchable, shining brilliant captain whose skill and precision holds your life in his hands. When we put so much faith in these people we are bound to be disappointed.
What I expected to hear from the cockpit:
(say in smooth calm voice) "Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. The weather conditions are fine, flight should be smooth and we'll be arriving in Hobart shortly."
What I actually heard sounded like the last rites:
(say with Aussie nasal twang) "G'day folks, I'll try not to talk your ear off for too long....Ah.. we're travelling at an altitude of 35,000 feet. Unfortunately there are 70 km winds coming up in front of us so there'll be some turbulence. I'll try to keep it steady for you."
At this point I nearly lost consciousness, contemplating the effect of 70km winds on a plane the size of a large airport shuttle bus.
After the captain's announcement I decided to have my last supper. As soon as I saw the hostesses wheeling the tray down the aisle I contemplated a double shot of vodka. Why not? What did I have to lose? I settled for a VB that refused to pour and gave me a mouthful of froth. Maybe it was the altitude or maybe I was already foaming at the mouth.
"Here's to the Skypub" we said, trying to make a clinking sound with our two plastic glasses. Looking out at the top of the clouds spread out like a doona below us, a strange feeling of calm enveloped me. Suddenly I felt invincible. If anything happened, I was no longer concerned. The beer had done its work.
Another thing that kept my spirits up during the journey was the presence of a little girl, maybe 2 years old, cheekily grinning at us. She would cry, fuss and struggle but when she turned to us and we smiled at her, she stared and stopped fussing. Her Mum said "Can you guys keep smiling at her for the whole trip?" The little girl had a cheeky 2-bottom toothed grin, stripey trousers and huge blue eyes. She made everything all right. Even during my most heart-stoppingly panicked moments, I gathered the energy to turn my head and do a trick with my sunglasses to stop the little girl from crying. I know why she was crying, too. She did it every time my ears felt the pressure and started popping.
At one point we really did feel like we were about to go into outer space. So as we descended from the clouds we couldn't help humming the Star Trek tune (old series of course).
When the flight landed they rolled out "the stairs" onto the tarmac. I loved this. It made me feel like the president of the US or something. Or the First Lady. All that was missing were our security team and photographers. I resisted the urge to wave. It probably would have just red-flagged me for security.
When I arrived I said "this is the smallest airport I have ever seen. It was the size of 2 RSL clubs.
Strangely the police presence at Hobart International Airport (is that an oxymoron?) seemed set up for the arrival of a Columbian drug lord. I wanted to pat the cute beagle sniffer dog but I don't think it would have been appreciated. Anyway, all the sniffer dog could smell was the residual odour of fear from the other traumatised Jetstar passengers.
The flight cost a mere $39 each. It was one of those special web fare deals. Needless to say it was more relaxing on the way back.
I was vaguely amused through all my fear. All I could think about was the part in "Beavis and Butthead do America" where the plane starts to take off and Beavis freaks out and says "Hey. Hey what's goin' on?" and then totally freaks out and screams "We're gonna die!" Then he eats all the medication from the old lady's handbag, bursts into the cockpit and ends with Butthead trying to pick up an air hostess and eventually rolling down the aisle because they have invaded the cockpit, sending the plane off balance. If this were real, I would be Beavis and my partner would be Butthead. I could just imagine him saying "what's your problem, Beavis?" I could have easily put my jacket over my head and roamed the plane asking "Are you threatening me?" Who knows where I could have ended up. I don't think airline staff are known for their sense of humour in such situations.
Thank God for the Jetstar air hostesses. Their calm and nonchalant manner made me realise that this was a routine 1 hour flight, they had done it a thousand times, and I was panicking unnecessarily.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Fear of Flying