I have to do these in installments or else they would be 9 pages long and no one would read them.
I must have gotten an hour of sleep the night before my trip. I’m sure you all know how apprehensive I was about the flight. I may not have explained that flying is my biggest fear. It is. I liked it the one time I did it when I was younger, but in between then and now, I developed a huge fear of it. I think the reason is all the plane crashes in the 90s that the media talked endlessly about. I still remember them – TWA Flight 800, the ValuJet crash, the SwissAir crash. I began to think that dying in a plane crash would be a horrible way to die. During the years, I looked up plane crash statistics and crash causes, and freaked myself out about the whole thing. I was not looking forward to this flight, as you could tell.
I woke up at 4 after a fitful night’s rest and felt apprehensive but excited at the prospect of seeing my family in Philadelphia. The SuperSaver shuttle showed up on time at 5:15, and we had a quiet ride to the airport. Thanks to the lack of traffic, I was there before 5:45. By 6, I had already gone through security. Unfortunately, my flight wasn’t until 8:05, so I had a ridiculously long time to get nervous. I walked around the bookshops at the airport, and saw the Reader’s Digest cover of “50 THINGS YOUR PILOT DOESN’T TELL YOU.” Of course I read it. The only thing that made me feel better was the part that said it’s virtually impossible for turbulence to cause a crash. That’s nice.
Then around 7:45, we started boarding. As I was stepping into the plane, I had a feeling of dread, where I wanted to turn around and not board it. Then I thought how disappointed my family would be, and how I would be wasting the money if I didn’t take the trip, so I did it anyway. I took a window seat behind the emergency exit, because I read if you sit within 5 rows of the emergency exit, your chances of survival are greater in the event of an emergency. Then I had to suffer the interminable wait between boarding and takeoff. As much as I dreaded takeoff, I just wanted to damn thing to fly already so I could get it over with. I’d forgotten the feeling in your gut as the plane lifts off the ground. I took a deep breath and told myself to calm down. Then I looked at the downtown skyline as we turned away from the City and thought, “That’s where I would be right now if I weren’t on this plane.” That calmed me down a little. Then I thought, “I can’t believe I’m actually on a plane.”
There’s something about confronting your greatest fear that gives you satisfaction, but it’s hard to feel that satisfaction 36,000 feet in the air. Likewise, it’s hard to comfort yourself with the statistics when you feel every single bump and you’re so precariously high off the ground. I was so nervous and hypersensitive to every single sound, vibration, and banked turn. I had brought reading material with me but was much too nervous to read any of it. I started writing a song and got through maybe a verse and chorus before I couldn’t focus anymore. At one point I had to go to the restroom and felt bad that my aisle partners had to stand up to let me by. I spilled part of my drink on the man sitting next to me as I was getting up, so I pretty much felt like an asshole.
And landing. I hate it. Here’s why – remember that Buffalo plane crash last year, where the pilots were chatting instead of noticing ice building up on the plane? They crashed during the final approach. I read all about that crash and as I saw the plane slowing down and making these banked turns, I thought of that crash and thought, “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING, ARE WE CRASHING?” Ridiculous. After we landed in Nashville, the man sitting next to me asked, “Are you home yet?” “No, I have one more flight,” I said. He grimaced. It was obvious to anyone how frightened I was.
The second time we took off, it was a little easier but not by much. I had to use the restroom again but since there was an elderly couple sitting in the other two seats, I didn’t want to make them stand up. I turned on the Foo Fighters and felt calmer on this flight than the last. Landing still freaked me out, especially those damn banked turns. The woman sitting beside me noticed how nervous I was and started talking to me to make me feel better. I was so freaking happy when we landed, you have no idea.
I collected my luggage and walked into the airport, expecting to see my relatives by the gate. I didn’t see them so waited dutifully for ten minutes before calling my aunt. “You have to walk out of the terminal,” she said. “They don’t allow us next to the gate anymore.” Shows you how long it’s been since I’ve flown. So I collected my carry-on bag and walked excitedly out of the terminal. I saw my aunt and uncle waiting for me and waved wildly. It was emotional for me to see them since it had been so long. I was so happy to see them. What’s amazing about a loving family is all this time could pass and when you see them again, it hardly feels like anything. I had been a little girl the last time I saw them, so I know it had to have been weird to see me all grown up.
We drove home while I marveled at the beautiful East Coast landscape. It had been so long since I’d seen an actual fall, with real color changes in the leaves and everything. The weather was actually warm, in the 70s.
We stopped at an Italian market first before heading to my aunt’s house, and my aunt picked up all the essentials – mozzarella, prosciutto, biscotti, Italian cookies, and torrone. Then we went to her house. Three of my four cousins were there – Tony, Kenny, and Amanda (the other, Alex, lives in England). I gave them all big hugs. It was so good to see them again. Then we all sat and talked. They are all really cool, intelligent people, so we hit it off right away.
My aunt made pasta arrabiata for dinner, and it was magnificent. Amanda had to go to work, but Tony and Kenny stayed and told stories so funny that I was about ready to choke. Then we all watched TV afterwards. They are a very close-knit family like mine so I felt right at home. Then Amanda came home, so we talked and watched TV for a little.
I went to bed feeling so happy to be with my relatives, and proud of myself for having confronted my biggest fear – if not successfully, it at least was an honest attempt.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Philly!