How to Overcome a Fear of Flying
A big guy sits down next to me, so I realize that he will be my neighbor for the next four hours. I’m not really happy about that sudden proximity. He is so big and scary, that would probably call the police if he saw his own reflection in the mirror. I put aside the “Divine Comedy” by Dante, but unfortunately don’t have enough time to turn my headphones on. Taking advantage of my mistake, big guy starts a conversation:
– “Well, what about you, son? Are you terrified of flying?” – he said. My first though was that I even more terrified of people who ask me such question without any introduction. But I reply something like:
– “I was afraid of it earlier. Now I’m not.”
I thought that my unpleasant smile will show my unwillingness to continue the conversation along with a strong desire to listen to music, but the big guy continued. If the mountain won’t go to Muhammed, Muhammed must go to the mountain, that is for sure.
-“How did you overcome the fear of flying?” – he asked.
How did I overcome it? A good question indeed. I actually knew the way of doing that, but I wasn’t sure my neighbor would treat me right, so I gave out an alternative version, which is also viable:
-“Three years ago I had eight flights within fourteen days. Such frequency helps a lot. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, though, but it truly works.”
-“So what? Now you totally get rid of this sticky feeling? Even when turbulence shakes the plane up there?” – he pointed his finger to the ceiling.
-“Even when it shakes up there I’m not terrified. Not a single plane ever falls down because of the turbulence in history. So if it actually happens then it takes place during takeoff or while landing” – I replied.
-“I see” – the guy fastened seatbelt and asked the flight attendant to bring him vodka immediately. As much as possible. But for some reason mentioned me too.
-“I don’t drink” – I exclaimed.
-“Then drink wine instead” – this phrase just dumped me on the spot.
I tried to convince him that wine drinking on the plane isn’t worth it.
Nevertheless, my neighbor looked a bit terrified. He had a look as if all things around him made him think of an imminent crash. Meanwhile, I looked at the breathtaking views from the porthole. Sunset combined with distant thunderstorm was amazing. Rain drops trickled down the glass, he was certain these were the last rain drops in his life. We were sitting in the thirteenth row. There is nothing more to add. The girl ahead of us was crying because her boyfriend wasn’t allowed to board the plane. The big guy was certain that a boy was saved from the terrible plane crash by a supreme creation. The omens are everywhere, he considered everything around him as bad omens.
“We should get out to take a train from Dresden to Malaga!” – that what I saw in his eyes.
“Sure, buddy, let’s do it!” – I reply with sarcasm inwardly.
Flight attendants haven’t even finished the safety briefing, but the big guy was getting drunk by drinking his vodka. He has finished two vodka shots while flight attendants proceeded with pre-flight safety demonstration. The sudden emergence of inflated jackets blew his mind. He compressed the armrests so tightly that I felt sorry for an inanimate object. I almost heard the cries of these armrests while my neighbor wasn’t really care about it, so he absolved them only when he decided to drink another shot. And many more after it.
By looking at the big trembling man I turn my headphones on and try to remember my own feelings about the time I flew for the first time. How did I overcome the fear of flying? I seemed to me I even wanted to help this poor guy. I remembered when I just started flying, once I was crossing the plane entrance I started praying by whispering something like: “Dear Lord, we surely much closer to each other right now and I’ve sinned a lot, you indeed have the right to shake this damn plane, but I’m not ready to meet you right now! The only thing I want is to land safely!” My behaviour was the same as this hefty fellow had, I was compressing the armrests the same way while my hands were sweating so much that it was wise to bring a small inflatable pool.
As soon as the plane hit air turbulence I imagined myself in a closed coffin flying down to the ground. I nervously sat with my feet rested on the floor and eyes wide open looking at the people around. However, one day the fear has passed. I’ve been thinking why it happened and came to the paradoxical conclusion. I felt relieved while everything in my life stabilized. Whenever I understood myself the fear has disappeared. I realized that we are terrified of flying not because of height or confined space (usually it is so) but because of the time that we still have for thinking about our quick death. It’s really hard to think about death. The only thing we know is that it is. It happens from time to time to people, but we can’t look inside the very essence of it. The plane crash is that very situation when we are imposed on such incredible thing. By entering the plane, we fear not the death itself, but the possibility of its awful realization. We are afraid of thinking of the finiteness of our lives. But why it all happens on the plane, but not, say, in a car accident? Because you have no time to realize that you are about to die in a car. No time for summarizing life. The plane crash is another matter. We are terrified of flying because of these ten-twenty seconds that we have for thinking about death and evaluating ourselves. “That was done right, while this could have been done better. It was a difficult marriage or that last shot of sambuca was unnecessary”.
We are terrified of flights because we don’t want to have time for realizing that are going to die. The worst thing about 9/11 was not the planes crashing into the twin towers, but the calls of passengers which were allowed to say goodbye to everyone they have loved. In 2001 these people were ordered to think about their own death while that is exactly what we are afraid of stepping on board.
When I removed the headphones I was about to explain all these thoughts to my neighbor, but he had six empty bottles on the table next to him so he wasn’t afraid of anything anymore. He didn’t need my thinking. The big guy laughed and was confessing his love to flight attendants. I was happy for him.
Having reached the ground I decided to summarize my flight. And here are my final thoughts. If you are terrified of flying, try to focus on something pleasant. This trick works just perfectly. Get the statistics which show that planes are much safer than cars. Be sure that pilots are experienced specialists who fly every day, so they are ready to react promptly to any malfunction. What about drinking? Well, that is ok, but don’t repeat mistakes of a big guy. On long-haul flights those mini-bottles are just fine. When you move through the passenger boarding bridge to the plane remember the very beginning of the “Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri where it is said: “Midway upon the journey of our life…” which essentially means no one lives forever. Get on board the aircraft with a smile on your face, enjoy the takeoff and landing, listen to the music, enjoy the beauty of clouds and flight attendants and remember that not a single plane ever fall down because of the turbulence.