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Thoughts From Someone Scared Shitless of Flying

by Candice Walsh Oct 4, 2011
What happens when you put an aviophobe on 10 flights in 9 days?

St. John’s to Toronto, boarding: This will definitely be my last trip ever. I just know it this time. I have that gut instinct.

Mom said she had a feeling I wouldn’t make it on this South America trip. I keep wondering why she thinks so. She’s always having these weird premonitions. Like when my little brother was sick in the hospital at 3 years old, and my grandmother came to her in a dream and said he would be okay. He was okay.

I don’t want my parents to deal with my death; they have enough to deal with. I wonder what music they’d play at my funeral?

St. John’s to Toronto, take-off: Oh god I’m going to die. I’m going to die. Dear God please don’t let me die. I promise I will never take the Lord’s name in vain again. Please, please, please don’t let me die. Why does everyone else look so calm when we’re definitely going to die? I will be a good person from now on, I promise.

Toronto to Bogota, connection: I’m sweating uncontrollably and I have to meet press trip people. These people are famous YouTubers. I know nothing about their world. “I need a beer,” I say. They don’t look amused. I’ve already ruined the trip.

Toronto to Bogota, in-flight: They’re serving us dinner. The chicken has a sickening pink tinge so I eat the vegetables around it. One of the flight attendants has a nervous smile on his face.

The plane is rocking.

The flight attendants make a hasty retreat. One of the other media people points out that it’s the same date of the Oceanic 815 crash.

A Passenger Announcement is made. “Ladies and gentlemen…we have to…temporarily suspend our in-flight service…until we reach a safer altitude.”


Bogota to Lima, in-flight: I am afraid to touch everything. I am in the bathroom and flushing the toilet seems like a disastrous idea. I am afraid if I use the wrong handle on the sink, the plane will explode.

Back at my seat, the guy next to me is travelling on business. He complains about the service and says he was stuck in an airport in Cuba for two days on his last trip. He’s nice, and friendly, and smells vaguely like cigars and toothpaste. I analyze his hands to see how strong they are in case I need to grip his fingers in a moment of panic. I don’t understand why I can’t just sit next to a really hot guy and watch a love story unfold. I see those guys every time before boarding my flight. They’re beautiful. They never sit next to me.

I think about the guy who sat across from me in the airport on my return trip from Ottawa in July. I was hungover and sleepy and had spent the night crying. He looked friendly, and beautiful, and he was reading Mystic River. I liked that book. There was no one around but us, and I couldn’t utter a single word. All I could think about was how a few hours ago I had said good-bye to Uncle Glen, forever. My cousin and I had come home the night before to find ourselves locked out of the house. We had no choice but to knock, and we could hear my uncle’s pained gasps as he shuffled to the door. I told him I loved him and I’d see him later.

I never asked that guy if he enjoyed Mystic River.

Lima to Cuzco: I DON’T UNDERSTAND SPANISH, WHAT HAPPENS IF THE PLANE GOES DOWN? Are the words for “we’re about to crash” universal? If everyone starts screaming, how will I know what’s going on?

Cuzco to Lima: Our flight to Brazil was cancelled so we have to fly back to Lima instead. Everyone is upset, but that’s one less flight I have to take. Two less, if you include the helicopter ride over Iguassu Falls. I feel slightly relieved. I hate myself for feeling slightly relieved. I am a travel writer who is terrified of flying.

I’m seated in the emergency exit row. Two of my travelling companions comment on my good luck. I don’t feel lucky. I feel trapped. The flight attendant comes by and tells us to read the special safety instructions for us sitting in this row. The guy across the aisle addresses his friend sitting next to me and says, “I’ll sum it up: open the door in case of emergency.” I whisper, “That’s a lot of pressure.” The guys laugh. The instructions say I must be able to communicate effectively. No hablo Espanol.

Lima to Buenos Aires: I just want to sleep. I’ve spent last night partying on the rooftop of a hotel in Miraflores with a bunch of people on my tour, until a lady from Hong Kong slammed her room’s door and marched downstairs to complain.

The doctor from Argentina will not stop talking to me. He’s incredibly nice, but I want to fucking sleep. I’ve taken 2 drowsy anti-nausea pills to make myself unconscious rather than deal with the stress of flying. The others laugh about it later, when we’re waiting for our visas in Buenos Aires. “We thought he was getting fresh with you,” they said. “No, that idiot wouldn’t let me sleep,” I reply. We laugh loudly. I turn to see him a few feet behind me.

Buenos Aires to Toronto via Santiago: The other Canadian and I have decided to get drunk. The booze is free. I slide into the seat next to her and we order bottle after bottle of white wine and Molson Canadian beer. We talk about boys, and travel, and life, and we decide this is the best 11-hour plane ride we’ve ever taken. Suddenly the thought of crashing doesn’t seem so bad, if it were quick and painless like the Air France one. We keep buzzing the blonde flight attendant who looks at us with an amused smile every time she comes to our seat. We’re starting to feel judged. The Canadian chick and I argue back and forth about whether or not to buzz again, but we’re feeling brave, so we order more.

We try to get some sleep. I open my eyes at sunlight when breakfast is being served. Sloppy, slimy eggs. I groan and close my eyes again. Suddenly the repercussions of getting shitfaced at thousands of feet above sea level are apparent.

Toronto to St. John’s, in-flight: It’s my 10th flight in 9 days, and I still don’t feel any calmer. It’s my first time flying first class. I eye the economy class with disdain. I stretch out and fall into a sleep broken with moments of turbulent panic. Am I safer near the cockpit? Should I be closer to the emergency exit? Oh my god I’m gonna die.

Toronto to St. John’s, landing: Thank Jesus fucking Christ, I’m still alive.

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