I’ve never understood our national fascination with Orville and Wilbur Wright or why our North Carolina license plates flaunt the words, “First In Flight.” I figure if God wanted me to fly, I'd have sprouted a little pink propeller on top of my little round prenatal head.
And I’ve always wondered how anything as ponderous as a Boeing 727 can lift itself off the ground two feet, much less thirty thousand feet. My patient science-teacher-husband carefully explained the physics of flight to me: lift, drag, thrust and gravity. He talked about Bernolli’s principle of low air pressure on top of the wing and high pressure on the bottom and all sorts of other stuff that left me dazed and uncomprehending. I didn’t even pretend I had a clue.
The fact is I’m scared to death to fly. I think airlines should provide all passengers with a list of instant in-the-air deplaning options. But that gets a bit dicey at thirty thousand feet since there are no emergency landing strips in the sky. Until they invent one, I’m taking the bus.
The last plane trip I took was in 1990. I booked a reservation to Harrisburg where my niece, Esther, was being married. I figured I could handle it. Not.
Getting on board at the Wilmington airport, I found my assigned seat in the very back row between a sullen Suma wrestler and a hefty motorcyclist whose thick, unkempt black beard likely hid the Lindbergh baby. I pondered which man would murder me first.
Suddenly, my raging claustrophobia kicked in. Big time. I was gonna be sealed up in this metal cylinder with the door shut as tightly as God sealed the door of the Ark. I wouldn’t be able to yank an overhead rope and chirp, “Let me off at the corner of Sixth and Elm, please.
My claustrophobia went to 78 on a scale of 1-10. The men beside me appeared to double in size and suffocate me. A stewardess capriciously turned off the air conditioning so I couldn’t breathe. I looked around, astonished that no one else was wide-eyed with terror. Likely, they’d tanked up on cheap Paul Masson wine before leaving home.
I was perched on the edge of my seat contemplating my dilemma. All my emotional buttons were buzzing out of control in my ears. Hyperventalism took over and invited the stares of my seat-mates.
I knew it was now or never so I leaped from my seat, bolted down the 10 inch wide aisle toward the cockpit and screamed, “Let me out, let me out!”
“You can’t leave now. Your luggage has already been loaded and we’re ready for take-off,” a size two stewardess icily informed me, reaching over to shut the door of the plane.
“If you don’t let me out, you’ll be delivering my cold, dead body to Harrisburg.” I shrieked. “And you can have my luggage. It’ll probably get routed to Idaho, anyway.”
The captain came out, having heard this exchange and shrugged, “OK. Let her off.”
I paused, lifted my aristocratic chin, squared my shoulders, and walked confidently and regally down the airplane steps to the airport door. (Actually, I flung my traumatized self down the steps, sprinted barefoot across the tarmac at Dale Earnhardt speed and raced through the terminal to my car where I collapsed sobbing across the front seat. Well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but it didn’t lack much.)
I applied for a ticket refund on the basis of a medical emergency. It was denied because “fear of asphyxiation by a sumo wrestler” is not an approved or recognized rare disease by the airline industry.
Too, too funny! I'm still laughing. What a sense of humor. Loved it! I had already read about your claustrophobia (sp?) in the pine box underground...so that figures! Anyway, great job, and the ending was perfect...picky, picky.