How to Overcome a Fear of Flying
A big guy takes a seat 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 repulsive, that I would probably call the police if I meet him in my neighborhood in the evening. 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:
– “What about you, son? Are you afraid of flying?” – he asked. My first thought was that I even more afraid of people who ask me that kind of question without any introduction. I replied 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 the 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 do you cope with the fear of flying?” – he asked.
How do I cope with it? A good question, indeed. I actually knew the way, 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 works just fine.”
-“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 afraid. 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 whiskey 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 a distant thunderstorm was amazing. While the rain drops trickled down the glass, the big guy was sure 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 whiskey. He has finished two 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 caring about it, so he absolved them only when he decided to drink another shot. And much 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 cope with 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, indeed, you 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!” I felt pretty the same way this hefty fellow did. 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.
Whenever the plane hit 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. The fear has passed away one day, however. I’ve been thinking why it happened and came to the paradoxical conclusion. I realized that we are afraid 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 someday it will happen. It happens from time to time to people, but we can’t look inside the very essence of it.
The plane crash is the 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? Because you have no time to realize that you are about to die in a car. No time for summarizing a life. The plane crash is a completely different case. We are afraid of flying because of these ten or twenty seconds that we have to think about death and evaluate 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 scared of flying 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 two empty bottles on the table next to him, so he wasn’t afraid anymore. He didn’t need my thinking. The big guy laughed and was confessing his love to flight attendants. I was happy for him.
I decided to summarize my flight after landing. And here are my final thoughts. If you’re afraid 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, it is ok sometimes, but don’t repeat mistakes of a big guy. On long-haul flights large amounts of alcohol may cause dehydration, so avoid drinking too much.
When you move through the jet bridge 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.