A few weeks ago, I flew back to Seattle after a weekend in Chicago. It was my second trip home this year and I am set to make two more before the year ends. Three out of four of these trips have been/will be for the sole purpose of seeing my new baby nephew. I look forward to telling him about these trips one day, about the thousands of dollars I shelled out just to kiss his drool-slathered face in person. On my last trip, he showed his appreciation by laughing at my jokes and peeing on me.
I probably won’t tell him that I look forward to flying in the same way I look forward to getting a pap smear: I know it needs to happen, I feel it’s important, I know it’s not that bad, but it’s not pleasant.
My friend Natalie needs to get d-r-u-n-k before flying across the country. In May, I had a layover in Utah and had two strong margaritas at the airport bar. I walked onto my flight relaxed and friendly. But I can’t do that every time. Who WANTS to do that every time? (Alcoholics, I suppose. And my lushy friend.)
So, I soberly boarded an evening flight back to the west coast that night. The flight started fine. I read a little, I talked to the lady next to me about the book I was reading. She’d read it too and agreed that it started slow. I liked her.
About an hour into the flight, the turbulence started. We were told that we had flown into some storms. I looked out the window and saw only a thick, gray haze. I couldn’t make out the wing.
The turbulence was like duh-duh-duh-DUHDUHDUH-duuuuhhhhh and then it would stop. By my estimate, it continued like this for an hour and a half. It wasn’t constant, but it was consistent.
I was terrified.
Despite the turbulence, the woman next to me kept our conversation going. I had to apologize to her because after awhile all I could do was stare into the back of the seat in front of me, clutching it. I told her I was quiet when nervous, she told me she was chatty when nervous. That worked out nicely; her chatter was a comfort. Her husband, who was sitting to her left, was more terrified than me. Early on in the flight they had told me that he was an engineer for Boeing, so when he looked over at me and said, “This is BAD”, I nearly shit my pants.
A Boeing engineer turns to me on a flight and says, “This is BAD.”
Holy fucking shit.
We’re all gonna die.
The man in front of me quietly puked into his puke bag. I had just puked on a boat a week earlier and couldn’t believe I wasn’t puking now. I felt for the guy. I felt for all of us poor, doomed souls.
I picked up my phone out of habit. When I saw the background, my baby nephew laughing, I put it down immediately. I could not bear to look at his sweet, fat face. What would they tell him about me? That my last trip was for him? That I loved him so much I made him the background on my phone? Would they frame that selfie I took of us that weekend? Who would take him camping now? Or teach him about gender labels and human rights?!
I thought of my boyfriend, waiting at arrivals. How long til he moved on from me and shacked up with someone new? Would he be scarred for life? (One would hope.) I decided I would haunt him in his dreams, maybe leave little notes and signs around, then leave him to carry on his mortal life, a la Ghost.
Just then, when all hope was seemingly lost, our pilot announced that we had made it through the storm and he could see the sun. There were cheers and claps! Elation all around! It brought to mind a group of lost spelunkers in a cave- “I CAN SEE THE SUN!!” I mean, when the hell else are you so relieved to see the sun? Unless of course you are being chased by werewolves or vampires. I guess after a tornado it’d be a relief. Or a hurricane. Okay, the sun is great and there’s lots of times to feel relieved at the sight of it and this was one of them.
The flight attendants appeared immediately. They ushered the pukers to the bathroom and started doling out alcohol. They gave me a giant cup of free wine. I downed it and immediately felt better. Natalie has the right idea; this would have been much more bearable had I been blind drunk.
When we touched down, I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me. Ahh to be ALIIIIVE, to be loved, to have a home with wine in which to return! I hustled out to arrivals, relieved to see my boyfriend behind the driver’s seat of our car, anxiously checking the mirrors, waving for me to hurry up. So glad I didn’t have to haunt his anxious ass.
Upon returning to work the next day, my first order of business was to look up turbulence. After sleeping on it, though I still felt grateful to be alive, I started to wonder if playing out my funeral service in my head during the flight was maybe, oh I don’t know, an overreaction? After all, towards the end of the flight I learned that the Boeing employee sitting near me was actually a building engineer. (That explained why his wife brushed him off each time he said, “This is BAD”.)
Turns out, turbulence is normal and won’t cause your plane to crash. That was reassuring to learn. But then the other part of my mind; the whiny/worried/party pooper, reminds me what Louis CK once said about planes, “You’re sitting on a CHAIR in the SKY!”