My name is Erin, and I am terrified of flying.
Ok, so that's a little bit of an understatement. I am positively petrified of flying! In my 27 (almost 28.. ugh..) years on this earth, I have taken a mere 24 individual flights. Everyone has their one big phobia, irrational or not, and for me, flying is it. This causes some complications, since Matt is from California and all of his friends and family still live there. I have amazing in-laws and I want to see them more often! Also, I love taking trips and I want to be able to travel to places beyond where a reasonable road trip can take us. Heck, I passed on going to Japan with Matt last November because I knew there was no way in the world I could handle the flights! It's a crippling, frustrating, stupidbutt fear.
So fast forward to a few months ago, when we were invited to a wedding for one of Matt's longtime friends. I had successfully avoided flying since our honeymoon in 2005 and even resorted to taking a train to California in 2008 to give Matt's family a break from always being the ones to travel to TN. As soon as that wedding invitation landed in our mailbox, I knew I was in trouble. When I looked at our calendar, "trouble" escalated to "deep doo doo" when I realized that the wedding fell on the one single Saturday that we had available between June and the end of August. It was gonna be hard to get outta this one.
And then.. it started. The puppy dog looks, the whimpering, the pleading, the guilt trips (oh man, the guilt trips). Finally, I caved. "Fine!" I said in a moment of insanity. "Book the flights!"
Then I ran to the bathroom and puked my brains out.
Ok, so it wasn't quite that bad, but let's just say I wasn't looking forward to getting on an airplane again.
Is it the height thing? No. Heck, it's on our bucket list to one day highpoint the US. I ain't afraid of no heights, provided I'm secured to the crust of this planet in some way. Is it being out of control? Yes, that's a biggie. I'm a control freak with trust issues, so handing over 100% of my safety to a couple of strangers behind a locked cockpit is a little unsettling. I can't pinpoint exactly what it is that sends me into a state of pure, palpable terror. I just plain don't like it, and we'll just leave it at that.
When the day arrived, I was doing pretty good! My anxiety was present but manageable as we arrived at good ole TYS and made our way through the empty terminal. I found it amusing to try to engage the TSA officers in idle chatter (since we were among maybe 7 or 8 people at the time going through security, and this IS the South.. you're supposed to talk to EVERYONE you come into contact with, after all!) and giggling to myself as they kept completely stonefaced and emotionally distant.
We grabbed some egg sandwiches from a deli and sat down in front of our gate. The monitors nearby showed two screens. One showed the arrivals/departures, and the other showed a radar map of the southeastern US.. with a big ole angry blob of red hovering over Dallas, which was where we were headed. Another blob of dark green sat just west of Knoxville.. marching east with every passing second.
Since our flight was delayed an hour because nothing was leaving Dallas, I sat next to the window and watched a wall of dark grey clouds roll in. By the time our plane arrived and we were ready to board, it was foggy, dark, and absolutely pouring rain. I was pretty freaked out, and it took every ounce of will I had to make myself walk down the jetbridge instead of out the front door.
We were sitting in the front row of the ERJ145 that would take us to Dallas. I strapped myself in and concentrated on not letting my irrational fears and thoughts take over and make the panic even worse. As we barreled down the runway, the rain streaking across the windows, I held onto Matt with one hand and white-knuckled the armrest with the other. I kept myself together pretty well, but I admit to a few silent tears escaping down my cheeks the first time I left the ground since 2005.
When we made it to cruising altitude, I relaxed a bit. I'm usually calmer at cruise, though still a bit on edge. I bring books and an iPod to distract me (and keep me from hyperanalyzing the sound of the engines), but I frequently catch myself reading the same sentence over and over again.
After a bumpy and semi-unpleasant landing in Dallas, we had missed our connecting flight, but learned that my awesome mother-in-law had been tracking the delays and doing some fancy tap dancing behind the scenes while we were in the air and managed to get us on the next (full) flight to Orange County, saving us from being stuck in Texas overnight. See what I mean when I say that I have amazing in-laws?
We had time to sit down for a real lunch, so we found a TGI Fridays near our gate, and our waiter arrived to take drink orders.
"I'll have a diet co.." I started.
"Uh, honey?" Matt interrupted. "Maybe you should order something a little.. stronger."
I made a gun with my hand and pointed at him. "That.. is a good idea. I'll have a White Zinfandel."
Left: What it takes to help me through a flight. Right: What it takes for Matt to deal with me on a flight.
I don't drink very often, and when I do, I'm a total lightweight. Two glasses of wine later, and I was feeling very happy. So happy, in fact, that I boarded the next flight without incident, and happily read The Help (when my eyes would focus again) as we completed our trip to the west coast. Matt pumped his fists in triumph and said, "Two glasses of wine? That's all it took to keep you calm on a flight? Hallelujah - you're cured!"
Am I cured? You might want to stay tuned to part 2 (will be posted Friday night) to hear about what happened on the return trip!