Monday, October 09, 2006

COLUMN: Plane-o-phobia

0114420880933852. When your caller ID shows THAT, you pick up the phone. That HAS to be an important call. Or at least an interesting one.

I was hoping it was Harmony, my friend who's spending half a year in Beijing. Instead, it was the voice of an old friend with an interesting proposition.

It was, in fact, the ex-wife of my old college roommate. After their strangely amicable divorce, Kari had followed her dream -- oh, who are we kidding, she followed MY dream -- and moved to England to become a music writer. While we still sent the occasional e-mail, our communications had slowed over the years and the miles, so it was fantastic to hear her voice.

It turns out that her boyfriend of a couple years, a Welshman named Maughan (which, disappointingly, does NOT rhyme with "noggin,") popped the question -- they're getting hitched in February. Not only was Kari calling to tell me the great news, she was calling to see if I'd DJ the wedding.

IN LONDON. On the Tower Bridge, no less.

Wow. I've always wanted to go to England. Between the history, the culture, and the nightlife, it's my dream vacation, honestly. And to get to show off my DJ skills to an entirely different country? That's pretty cool. Plus Kari's in the music business, so the guest list at this little shindig might be pretty impressive. I want to do it. I want to do it BAD.

There's just ONE problem. England is, most decidedly, difficult to drive to.

When I was a kid, our family flew down to Disney World. I don't remember much about the flight, I just remember thinking how cool it was to be in an airplane.

Flash forward some 20 years, and the paper decides to send me out to a conference in Boulder, Colorado. Awesome! I hadn't been on a plane in FOREVER, and to be handed a free trip to Colorado for a week? Shoot, sign me up!

I got to the airport one excited globetrotter. Ticket in hand, I proceeded through the terminal with a spring in my step. Then I boarded the plane.

"That's funny," I thought to myself, "this sure seems small." When I was a kid, I remembered planes being huge on the inside. You know, like the planes you see in the movies. THIS plane, on the other hand, was a winged school bus. It was kinda dirty. It smelled a little funky. People were crammed in like sardines. Then we pulled down the runway.

Ten seconds after liftoff, I thought I was dying. I could see my heartbeat as my shirt fluttered faster and faster. My knuckles were white as snow. Breath came shallow. "Swell," I said to myself, "You really ARE a weenie."

Turns out I have a horrific fear of flying. It was news to me, honestly. I thought flying would be fun. Then I looked DOWN and saw clouds, and about saw my breakfast on my lap. Far below the clouds was Earth, a patchwork of fields and colors... and all I could do was wonder which one of those little squares would be the softest to crash-land in.

We arrived in St. Louis and I barely had time to make my connecting flight to Colorado. By now, I was noticably shaking. The last thing I wanted to do was go up AGAIN -- but then again, being stuck in St. Louis and having to tell my boss that I was too afwaid of da big bad pwane didn't sound like a better fate. So I sucked it up and boarded the connecting flight. And who of course sits down next to me but THE HOTTEST GIRL THAT HAS EVER LIVED.

This was fate. This was karma. This girl was my soulmate. Or at least she was until I reached for the barf bag. Try as hard as I could, there was NO way to be cool. I had to fess up to her that I was terrified, and she did her best to placate me the rest of the way. Air travel is for the deranged and fearless. I am a rational human being, and rational human beings accept that people aren't expected to float at 40,000 feet in the air.

Yeah, I know, cars are far deadlier. But, at least in a car, MY hands are on the wheel. My fate is LITERALLY in my hands. In a plane, my fate is in Capt. Doug's hands. Or Al the engine mechanic. Or Phil the shoe bomber. Too many variables, people, that's all I'm saying.

So instead I've been doing a lot of pacing. I really want to go to England come February, I really do. But can I do it without tossing my Transatlantic cookies? Maybe they can knock me out just like Mr. T in the A-Team and presto, I'm in London. My friends say I should do it, and that movies and music can distract me. Well, unless that movie is "Harry Potter & the Plane That Always Lands Safely," I'm still gonna be a basket case. I've got a couple weeks to decide, and until then, I keep repeating Kari's mantra to me:

"British chicks dig guys with American accents."


Anonymous said...

Don't tell me you've never heard of "alcoholic beverages," America's favorite in-flight anti-anxiety drug of choice. ;-) You KNOW that if you don't do this, you will be hating yourself for the rest of your life, wondering about "...IF I had gone to England..." Don't be a doofus.

Anonymous said...

You may believe I'm crazy - but fear of flying or no - you really MUST go or you're the crazy one. Like anonymous said - you'll regret it for the rest of your life if you don't. Talk to your doc and get some valium or self-medicate with the drink of your choice - do whatever you need to and GO!!!!!!!! Then I can be jealous of you for taking MY dream trip. ;P

Anonymous said...

Go!!! I hope to someday, but like yourself, I don't like flying. Could you take the Queen Mary?

Danine said...

Shane, Hope this isn't too lateto infulence your decision....GO -- ask your doctor for a Xanax or something (ANYTHING!) that will get you there & back, but GO, GO, GO!!! It's the chance of a lifetime. If you love it, you don't HAVE to make the return flight. Just e-mail us your resignation and we'll try to muddle along without you.

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