Sunday, September 6, 2009

Leaving On a Jet Plane. I think.

In a couple of weeks I leave on a great adventure. If my heart doesn't give out somewhere over the Atlantic, that is.

Those of you that read my posts know that I'm mortally afraid of flying, so a trip to Europe is going to test my nervous and circulatory systems to their limits. I've been mentally preparing myself to take this on, because I'd dearly love to just get on the damned plane like every other normal person and not be waiting to die every moment of the flight.

A pilot that I know suggested I think of something even more terrifying than getting on a plane. Think of that, he said, and that the moment the plane's door shuts and you take off, you're safe from it.

Huh, I thought. Not a bad idea. And nobody's got an imagination like mine. It's a curse of being a writer, I think. So far, I'm thinking of something apocalyptic like a nuclear or biological strike. That's sufficiently scary for me. As for getting on the plane, I already have my "routine" checklist that I do in my head. Brace yourselves before continuing to read.

Disaster management personnel and special ops soldiers are trained to prepare for catastrophes they might face by worst-casing everything. When something goes wrong, chances are they've already run through a similar scenario and have a plan of action in mind. If there's a job out there that focuses on worst-casing everything, I would be awesome. I do it constantly already, and that's all on my own without any training because I'm a control freak/alarmist, whatever. You get the picture.

Getting on a plane used to be pretty much the same as getting on a bus for me, but since a classmate in high school was the sole survivor of a fatal crash, I can't even think about stepping onto an aircraft without my heart pounding. When I get on a plane now, I look at every passenger to see if they looked sweaty or stressed. They could just be nervous fliers like me, but I've got my eye on them in case they're up to no good ;) Not on my plane, you don't!

That's step number one in my misguided attempt to be able to make myself safer when I'm locked in a metal tube 40,000 feet above the ground. 'Cuz yeah, that'll help.

Two, I memorize how many rows of seats it is to the nearest exit from where I'm sitting, both fore and aft. That way, if there's a fire while we're on the ground and I'm not dead yet, I can touch the rows of seats to count my way to the closest available exit since the smoke will be too thick and black to see anything. Plus, I'll only have seconds to get to the exit and I can't hold my breath for very long.

Three, I memorize how each of the exits nearest me needs to be opened by studying the safety manual. In case I'm the one that gets there first.

Four, I buckle up my belt and clench my sweaty hands together. And then don't talk to me. I'm concentrating on keeping the plane in the air with sheer mental force. So don't expect me to carry on a conversation for more than a few seconds.

In the unlikely event of a hijacking, I've still got a few ideas in mind. I do know some first aid and am pretty knowledgeable about the human body. If the pilots were incapacitated and no one else on board had any flight experience, I know that 121.5 is the emergency frequency on the radio. In a worst-case scenario, I could use this to contact someone (provided I remember my flight number) and get help. I even know what the yoke in the cockpit does and where the switch for the landing gear is. Then I'd pray the plane had the kind of autopilot that could land the aircraft all by itself.

Scared yet? Think I should be medicated all the time and not just when I fly? You might be right!

When we finally land (please God) I always keep my eyes peeled when there are crowds of people around, looking for anything suspicious. Like say, someone wearing a bulky jacket or vest when it's hot out. There's my author brain working, looking for a suicide bomber (your eyebrows are up under your hairline now, aren't they?). At the hotel when I finally arrive, I memorize where the emergency exits are from my room in case there's a fire so I already know which way to go if the power goes out and there's too much smoke to see. I know, freak, right? But I think about that sort of stuff all the time.

The blessing for this trip is that I won't be with my children, which already relieves my mind from having to protect them if anything should go wrong. Plus I'll be taking my laptop. Nothing better to distract me than working on a book, and I'll have at least ten hours on the long flights to accomplish something. Although, it might not be quality work since I plan to be very drugged on Ativan or some other sedative. Hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

The last few days of September I'm meeting my dad and stepmom in Riga, Latvia, to continue their trek across Asia and Europe in The Great Cmolik Driving Adventure. You can check out their progress (and mine, until October 8th) here.

Aren't you glad you're not traveling with me? LOL. So everybody, please keep me in your thoughts in the last week of September and first two of October. Pray, flap your arms, whatever. I'd appreciate the help, because it's hell keeping a plane in the air all by myself.


Rebecca J. Clark said...

Let's see if I can make you feel better. You're more likely to die from a lightning strike, or car accident, or dying in an explosion, or housefire, or drowning, or shark attack. So see? You have nothing to worry about.

If all else fails, tequila works wonders.


Katie Reus said...

You can do it and you're going to be totally fine!!

Kaylea Cross said...

What I really need is to just stop THINKING. Gonna be hard, but I don't see any other way around it :)