Flying in planes

As my father paced back and forth in the airport, no doubt pissed that he got stuck flying overseas with us kids, I enthusiastically declared, “I hope our plane crashes so I don’t ever have to go to school again!”

He was not amused.

“Don’t you ever say a thing like that EVER again!” He actually yelled at me.  And then promptly instructed me to hand my carrying case full of Strawberry Shortcake dolls over to the nice security men fully armed with machine guns and no smiles. 

It was just your typical German airport in the mid-80s. No biggie.

I was only eight but it was my third time going through that airport and my fifth time being in an airplane.  My father was in the United States Air Force and flying in airplanes was kind of expected to happen, to all of us. 

My dad, brother, and I flew from Frankfurt,Germany to Philadelphia and then on to Charleston, South Carolina.  My mother had taken another flight out of Rome because she was traveling with our dog (and, surprise!, my yet-to-be-known-about little brother).  I was fine. I was totally fine. Actually, the only thing I remember about the flight was riding in a tram in Philly and then shopping for a vehicle in Charleston.  The rest of our travels were done by land.  Oh, precious, precious land.

I like land.  I like being on land a whole bunch.

The last time I flew was when I was fourteen…er, fifteen? Maybe sixteen.  My family decided to take a trip to Milwaukee to visit my mother’s side of the family (whom we’d spent a lot of time with when we lived in Upper Michigan). We were living at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland at the time and flew out of then­-National Airport.  This was my first experience with selective memory, otherwise known as HOLY SH*T SHE’S FREAKIN’ THE EFF OUT!!!

Seriously, I don’t remember a damn thing about that flight. I have a vague recollection of walking through the airport in Milwaukee and meeting my Uncle John who quickly loaded us into his van and drove us to his home in Brown Deer (also home to Bob Uecker!!).  I marveled at the fact that they had a swimming pool, not because I’d never seen one before but because it’s Wisconsin, for cryin’ out loud. It’s only ever warm for 2 weeks out of the year. Geez.

My week in Wisconsin is a blur. There is something about driving through Germantown with my cousin, walking into a cornfield to find a hidden stash of alcohol, and getting asked out on a date by my cousin’s best friend.  Oh, and the approach as we headed into National Airport and the guy next to me asking if I’d like to see the lights outside the window (it was at night).

Besides that, I remember nothing. My brain, all terrified and whatnot, just refers to erggrarglghara-duhur! when it tries to recall memories from our family’s summer vacation of 199…oh, hell, I don’t even know what year it was.  Erggrarglghara-duhur!!

Not too long after that, another Wisconsin cousin of mine was getting married and his mother, my aunt, was nice enough to invite me to fly out for the wedding.  I said yes! YES! I’d love to come to Wisconsin! I changed my work schedule and told all my friends and boy, oh boy! Was I ever excited! Eerggrarglghara-duhur!!  Oh, yes. That’s the sound of my brain when I finally realized that flying meant hahaha – you gotta get on an airplane!

Um, no likey.

Looking back, there is no specific time in my life that I can go back to and say, that’s the moment!  That’s the exact moment I went completely nuts and erggrarglghara-duhur!!!

Eff planes, man. I just don’t like them.

I love the sounds of airplanes.  My entire life has been spent near airplanes.  As a military child, I learned to eat, sleep, and live through the deafening roar of a fighter jet practicing maneuvers over my house.  Nowadays, I’m only a few miles from Jacksonville International Airport.  Southwest Airlines flies directly overhead a few days a week.  The rumbling bellow of an airplane is music to my ears.  

However, the afternoon of my flight, my paid-for-by-my-aunt-non-refundable-round-trip-flight, I fretted in my garage and nervously smoked through an entire pack of Marlboro Lights within a couple of hours. Pre-9/11, I had packed my bags and prepared to leave at 5:30 for a 6:30 flight out of National Airport. Back then, I didn’t even have the opportunity to be dumped off at the airport 2 hours before the flight to fret in public and catch the eyes of airport security who, no doubt, would have noticed my fragile state of mind and immediately pulled me aside for terrorist questioning and a complete body scan. No, no, no!  I got to panic and mumble incoherent statements about bombs and Lockerbie and there’s something on the wing in the complete safety of my own home.

And then I totally lost my shit and told my mom to go in my place. She did. And she had a fabulous time with her family!

But, really?  When did this happen? At what moment did my brain just decide to get all John Lithgow ala Twilight Zone: The Movie and erggrarglghara-duhur!! The sheer mention of having to get on a plane just sends me into a panic, an episode of selective amnesia, because I don’t even want to consider it. Yes, I’m one of those idiots who’d rather spend way too much time driving from one end of the country to the other.  It’s a good thing I like seeing the country that way, from sea level and all.  You can;t experience that kind of thing when you’re on an airplane.

Besides, those things sometimes just fall out of the sky, you know.  And you can’t just pull over at a truck stop to stretch your legs when you need a break from traveling. That’s super annoying.  And it’s all out of my control.

I like being in control. Obviously.

There are a few places that I’d like to visit, or re-visit, as it may be, but I cannot imagine how I’m going to pull off taking the time away from work to haul my happy ass from Florida to wherever without getting homesick somewhere in Kentucky and just turning around.  It’s frustrating sometimes.  A woman I know who suffers from severe bouts of seasickness once explained to me that, when traveling by sailboat (her husband lives for this stuff) to the Keys or Bermuda or the Bahamas, the destination is sometime worth the unpleasantness of the journey itself.

I hope that I can one day I can actually believe that. Even if it’s just a small hop to Atlanta, maybe I could actually step foot on a plane and get reacquainted with…



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