Fear of Flying

Flying’s not really that dangerous is it?
I’m hopping on and off airplanes every other day for a few weeks. I don’t even want to think about the carbon offset to notes played ratio. I choose instead to recall all sorts of things that have happened over the years, that couldn’t have occurred anywhere else.

The elderly Austrian journalist next to me explained quite lightheartedly that she had a fear of flying of phobic proportions. She had flown every week of her life for decades, tried every cure from medication to meditation, hypnosis to cannabis. All to no avail. I thought she was just generating conversation, and over dramatising the issue perhaps just a little. When I asked her, after glancing out the window, if it was normal for a crack to be appearing in the wing. She said very calmly “I’m not joking, stop it immediately”. The only treatment to have any effect was a quick nip of whisky right before take off.

Then there was adorable FI who worked in computer games, returning to Australia. She had poor hearing, due to (according to her) too much recreational loud music as a teenager. She would be at her desk and her colleagues would throw paper rolled into balls to attract her attention. We talked about everything under the sun, and fell asleep holding each other. It was one of those situations where I thought we would either stay together forever or never see each other again. Was the latter.

In transit at O’Hare I got talking to another charming woman (I was 24 or so, she late 50s) - we were flying to different cities but had a similar number of hours to kill. Hung out talking, walking around, agreeing on the strangeness of plane travel. The actual travel doesn’t really begin until you arrive. On the train you see the countryside changing, the accents and clothes altering, there’ll be the occasional “Paßkontrolle”. Johnny Depp in the opening sequence of Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man” springs to mind. Anyway, that day we cried when saying goodbye. We allow ourselves to be open to brief and unlikely love, because we know it’s fleeting.

Even just now CH and I are joking in the taxi about having our passports always with us despite all flights being within Australia.
- We could elope
- Where would we go?
- South America
- How about Indonesia?

PB claims that one has to feel the pleasure of the vibrations of take off through the entire body. She has muscularly perfected this to the point of enjoying the high point of lift off very much. She also advocates a block of hash lodged between gum and cheek to be very therapeutic for the long haul. ML says valium is the only answer, and never drink alcohol. What about that book that claimed to have the solution to jet lag? To trick the body clock we had to wear dark glasses and move slowly when it was “night”, then put bright lights on and stare at them when it was “day”. Never really worked for me.

Scored a bottle of Verve once because there had been a bit of mold on a piece of airline fruit salad. Dad reckoned it’d almost be worth bringing your own mold with you everywhere you went. And how strange it seems now to think of being in the back couple of rows with the smokers!

I was surprised once flying from Luxemburg back to Hamburg late one afternoon in summer. It was a fairly small plane and we low circled the Alster before landing. I knew the trombone class were having their end of semester drinks that evening, and as I peered out the porthole window I saw them sitting at a table in the beer garden in Milchstraße. This ended up being a long night.

Went back to the airport the following morning on no sleep to fly back to Australia. Feeling a bit queasy (it was the Professor’s family distilled Schnapps administered beneath the table), I delayed my boarding to the last second because frankly I didn’t want to be chucking on board. One of the stewardesses came over to me full of comfort saying “oh you have fear of flying, I understand...”
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