I went out of town for thanksgiving to lake tahoe with my boyfriend and his family. Which means, I had to get on a plane.
I realize now as I get older and more therap-ized and more in control of my emotions and fears and learn where they come from and I’m not going to lose gravity on a flight, I just have separation anxiety, etc. I’m starting to fear real things now. Now I have the unpleasant fear of terrorism and plane crashes. Gone are the days where I just worry about Spontaneous Combustion or choking on ice.
I was once hypnotized years ago for my fear of flying. The “doctor” asked me, “Where do you feel most comfortable?” I said, “Onstage or at shows watching my friends on stage. That is my life!” Most psychiatrists (this is what makes me doubt anyone’s qualifications) squeal with glee at this. They say, “Wait a minute. You get on stage and tell jokes in front of people? And you’re afraid of death? You’re afraid of flying?” They usually wipe flop sweat from their brow and chuckle, “I gotta tell you. Did you know that 60% of people polled….” And I finish their sentence, “Are more afraid of public speaking than death. Yes.” By the way, that’s a bogus poll. I have no proof but I think it is. Everyone always says, “Before I die, I’d like to skydive, have kids, and organize a paint-ball team.” No one sets timelines for accomplishments with the phrase, “Before I Public Speak, I simply must see the Netherlands.”
Anyway the doctor led me into a meditation before I “fell asleep.” He told me to imagine that I was entering a “comedy plane” where everything was funny and my friends were performing and I was too busy laughing to bother being scared. Instead in my mind, I began imagining Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper going down when they too were only just flying to perform somewhere and three beloved performers were lost. You’re never safe, not even amongst friends. I laughed a little during the meditation because I was thinking of how in the movie La Bamba, when Ritchie’s brother finds out he’s dead he screams, “Nooooo!” And that part always made my dad cry. He’d lie on the couch and put his palms over his eyes and pretend it wasn’t happening. The “doctor’ caught my laugh and said, “Good. Good. Chuckle. Comedy Plane is just what you need.” And then I fell asleep from boredom the last image in my mind of a prop-plane disappearing into the fog. I woke up feeling refreshed not sure if the hypnosis worked since I drove home in a Honda, not a plane.
As I stepped onto Southwest I could hear the passengers in their seats laughing. It was like I got late seating to a comedy club. I pushed my way through and put my bag in the overhead bin…my klonopin was kicked in and I slumped in my seat and stared at US Weekly unsure how to open it. And then I heard what all the laughter was about. The stewardesses act as comedians. Instead of leading you through the Emergency Procedures, they say, “And you’ll find your security procedures written here, blah, blah, blah.” And everyone laughs. Now that is sort of funny. No one lives if that bird goes down. It doesn’t matter if you have a floatation device or a responsible person near the emergency exit. But her delivery was so dumb that I was angered that people thought that was funny. I don’t think people were laughing on the drug induced conceptual deconstructed level that I was laughing at. Then another stewardess announced that we shouldn’t panic, oxygen is on the way in case of an emergency, “If you don’t bother us too much during the flight.” Big laughs! Then the pilot, who I guess, had nothing better to do than fly a plane gets on, “If this thing takes off, we’ll be cruising at an altitude of xxx.” Ha! Ha! During the flight where we hit turbulence that I swear tipped the plane upside down and back he got on, “Whoops!” That’s not cool. When we landed he said, “Oh great. We’re here.”
Now I had a connecting flight, also on Southwest. I boarded and couldn’t believe it. I was getting a double header; I had tickets to the late show on this plane. The same routine was going on but this flight crew was off the wall. No one bothered with delivering the emergency thing, instead, “There could be an emergency, blah, blah, blah.” The stewardesses were acting like they were on “Absolutely Fabulous” ripping the passengers, teasing, acting campy and irreverent. I was getting nauseous. Comedy is my job. On a stage. We’re on a giant thing that is too heavy for air, stop joking!
But one woman’s hatred of comedy is another woman’s klonopin. The woman in back of me, before take off, said to a stewardess, “Excuse me.” She seemed nervous, like she was approaching Rock Hudson for an autograph. “Were you the one making the jokes? The blah blah?” The stewardess said, “That’s right!” (Imagine Flo from Alice) And the passenger let out a sigh of appreciation. “Thank you. Thank you for the jokes. I needed that. This is where I need to be.”
And in that moment I flashed back to a couch in a certain “doctor’s” office. I pictured him telling me that Comedy Plane was where I needed to be. I still wasn’t laughing but it was a weird moment of recognition. Maybe that $100 wasn’t a waste after all. That weird syncopation made me feel like someone out of the bible. That now I need to write a letter to the Theolossians. Because I was on a flight that was destined to be okay, it had been told to me three years earlier that I needed to be on a comedy plane.