The Turbulence

I haven’t talked about the turbulence that I experienced on my flight from Boston to LA the other day yet. With all my fears about flying, turbulence never bothered me. I thought of it as amatuer stuff, worrying about some wind patterns that seemingly knock the plane about.

I guess I’d never experienced turbulence. Because I felt like God was a kitten and my plane, just a little jingle ball, and that kitten would not let up. I prayed for someone to come around and distract the kitten with some catnip but no one was around.

I spent most of the flight home, awake, but drugged, enjoying a cheese plate, changing channels on the Direct TV, and reading my new short story collection book. And then, as the stewardess tried to hand the man on the aisle seat in my row a gingerale, she screamed and then tried to suck it back in. Like when you can recall an email in Microsoft Outlook. She fell forward and the drink spilled a little. A huge chorus of screams erupted in the plane, as if on the floor, thousands of spiders were suddenly unleashed. These were horror house, roller-coaster, “I can’t control myself” screams.

A man’s voice came over the intercom, “Leave the carts! Leave the carts!” The stewardesses abandoned their carts and sat down immediately. The pilot got on and said he had to figure out the “situation” we were in. I’d never heard it like that before.

Then we dropped, or it felt like it. Like if you were in an elevator and it went down an entire floor, for no reason. Clunk. More screams and then eerie silence after the screams died down. And then, a slight nose dive. Groans, a few gagging noises, people trying not to puke.

I took my barf bag out because I felt like I was back on the Block Island Ferry in Rhode Island (it’s a doozy.)

And then, insane rattling, like we were beads inside maracas. I grabbed my arm rest to hold on, because I was forcibly being slightly ejected from my seat. I accidentally grabbed the hand of the woman next to me, she looked at me. A moment. She grabbed my hand back. I grabbed her elbow and we held each other down.

More screams. I heard a “Jesus!” I heard prayers. I heard children asking, “Are we going to die?”

I heard nothing from the pilot. I thought to myself that intellectually I felt fear and concern, but I was so drugged, I wasn’t having a panic attack. It was surreal. I didn’t know if it was the drugs, or if I was close to death and feeling that serene, “it’s okay” feeling that we are all rumored to have coming to us on our deathbeds. I figured it was the drugs.

The rattling wouldn’t stop. I hit the side of the window, hard. I rubbed my head and realized, I was fully sober. I reached for my inhaler because the panic attack was beginining. And then – bliss. No more screaming. No more turbulence. The pilot came on and told us to sit still just in case.

I felt tense waiting for that next moment of nose-diving but it never came. We landed, rather turbulently as well. I’d venture to say the landing, “sucked” and that’s usually my favorite part.

Now, I know you’ve all had turbulence and it’s normal and not dangerous. But it doesn’t feel good, does it? I’d like to avoid it in the future. And I am becoming less and less interested in flying.

For in those moments, that I pretended were my last on Earth, I decided that it was a powerfully lonely and morbid way to go. I do not desire a plane crash as my “exit of choice.” It’s the worst feeling. When I have panic attacks here on the ground, I often feel a feeling of weightlessness, and of falling, and heck, if it isn’t the same old feeling that nearly crashing in a plane gives me. It’s just not for me, even if the statistics tell me it may never happen.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been ecstatic and happy. I think the bump on my head was akin to Dorothy’s in the Wizard of Oz. And now, I’m in a wonderful world of ruby shoes, midgets who don’t get paid residuals or even scale for their appearance in a movie, and singing lions. There really is no place like Earth, even if it is terrible at times. And I love my new cell phone. It doesn’t make me want to screen as many calls. I have a renewed sense of joy.

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