Are you one of the many travelers who fear flying? Do you panic days before a flight and require deep-breathing techniques to get through security? Do you have an entire pharmacy in your carry-on, pills that you chase with booze in an effort to forget that you’re hurtling across the earth at 500 miles per hour? I was like you once. And then poof, just like that, I was cured. What’s my secret, you ask? More flying.
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I believe the cure for a fear of flying is to fly, under the worst possible combination of circumstances, for a minimum 24 hours straight.
My cure came via a flight from Dakar, Senegal, to Denver. It started as one might expect — a strip search at the airport. After we had all taken our seats, the plane was deemed too heavy to make it across the Atlantic, so 10 volunteers had to be removed and matched with their luggage. This is about the point at which I prepared to die. Naturally, the next thing to happen was a lost flight roster, so the crew spent a few hours counting us over and over again. What should have been an eight-hour flight turned into a 12-plus-hour experience from hell, and it continued to deteriorate.
Although we had three seats between the two of us, my row-mate chose to sit in the middle seat and cuddle with me for the duration (to be fair, she did offer me a plastic baggie of fermented meat to seal our new friendship). The bathroom was destroyed quickly after take-off, so I opted to hold it until we reached New York, denying myself even the simple anesthesia of alcohol. And the icing on the cake came when the flight crew walked up and down the aisle hosing passengers down with “World Health Organization approved” bug spray.
By the time we reached New York, I had missed my connecting flight by many hours and had to be rerouted through Minneapolis … in a snow storm. When I arrived in Denver, 24 hours after starting my journey, I had been cured of any fear of flying. I no longer had fear — or feelings. I was, no pun intended, on auto-pilot.
I realized how far I’ve come on a recent trip when, as my flight home became further and further delayed, I did not panic or pray. Instead, the ticket agent and I devised a plan in which I would make a surprise trip to Seattle and spend 200% more time on an airplane in order to get home one hour earlier.
Old Liz would have fretted over the change in schedule, but new Liz was game. Eight unscheduled hours cramped in coach? Let’s do it! Inclement weather over the Rocky Mountains promising extreme turbulence? Bring it on!
So the next time you’re considering a horrific travel itinerary, remember: Just a little bit of misery could be the cure you’ve been waiting for.
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