Yasas from a remote cove somewhere in Greece, most precious and distant Listener. I hope you are in fine health and jovial spirits.
I am thoroughly enjoying my holiday in Greece, thank you. I thoroughly enjoy being in any place where I can sit and stare at a 90 year-old fisherman’s bottom poking out of his shorts as he bends over to tend to his boat for an hour. Who wouldn’t?
What I don’t enjoy, my loveliest listeners, is the mode of transport I must utilise in order to get here.
Let me tell you how much I dislike flying: I would rather lie naked under a rhinoceros with unpredictable bowels than get on a plane.
In my fearful little brain, me boarding a plane and me approaching an ill-humoured bull, calling it a smelly idiot, punching it in the face, then donning a red shell suit and standing in front of it, will have the same result: I will definitely die.
If, by some miraculous good fortune, the plane’s wheels don’t burst on a piece of debris that fell off the plane in front and we career off the runway in a blazing ball of flames and body parts, then one of the following Death Events will certainly occur: Death by birds sucked into engines, Death by plane wings falling off, Death by power failure, Death by lack of oxygen, Death by random explosion, or, perhaps the most unfortunate of aviation deaths, Death by choking on a forkful of quivering, gelatinous scrambled egg on an otherwise safe and uneventful flight.
An irrational fear? A rational fear? I don’t care what it is; the simple fact is that my brain does not currently have the ability to comprehend how a huge metal tube can fly me and many, many other people to my destination without something going horrendously and irreversibly wrong.
I’ve learnt to cope with this fear over the years – inasmuch as curling up into the foetal position, stuffing my fingers in my ears and crying constitutes “coping” with anything – and fortunately the fear loses against my determination to continue to travel.
However, as well as having to cope with this chronic and traumatic fear of instant and pulverising death, one must also contend with those Things That Happen on a Plane That in No Way Help to Alleviate Your Fears or Calm Your Nerves But Instead Make You Want to Commit Aviation Genocide and Scream:
You KNOW in your heart that that whirring sound you hear when you first board the plane is just the air conditioning or general harmless mechanical noises, but your fear-addled brain tells you it is SOMETHING GOING DRAMATICALLY WRONG WITH THE PLANE AND THERE IS A FLURRY OF PEOPLE UNDERNEATH YOU DESPERATELY TRYING TO FIX THIS PROBLEM BEFORE IT KILLS YOU ALL.
And you KNOW that that hideous cranking noise just after take-off that sounds exactly like a major piece of the aircraft falling off and hurtling to the ground, is simply the wheels tucking themselves neatly back into their compartment – but unfortunately, your fear-consumed brain tells you that A MAJOR PIECE OF THE AIRCRAFT HAS JUST FALLEN OFF AND HURTLED TO THE GROUND AND WE WILL DIE AS A CONSEQUENCE. Because that is precisely what it sounds like.
(Note to any listeners who make airplanes: PLEASE do something about this. ANYTHING would be better than listening to the wheels-tucking-themselves-back-where-they-belong sound.)
2. Children and Babies
I understand that children and babies are not silent creatures. I understand that, despite the efforts of the leathery old sow in front of me who yelled ‘Shut up!’ down the cabin to a crying baby, the baby in question is not going to respond thus:
However, when one is faced with the certainty of imminent death, the last thing one needs is babies screaming and playful 5 year olds making the following comment on the plane’s noises: ‘What was that sound, Mummy? The plane’s broken! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha the plane’s broken!’
Not funny. Not funny at all.
3. Difficult Passengers
One wants to relax before Certain Death. One does not need to be riled by the aforementioned leathery old sow making loud demands for gins and tonic (at 8.30am no less), or saying to the person in front of her ‘Excuse me, but I think you’re abominably rude to put your seat so far back into my lap,’ and then proceeding to put her seat so far back into my lap that I was practically eating breakfast off her head.
Nor do I need to be vexed by a nearby passenger saying this to a stewardess:
Yes, that really happened. The stewardess deserves the ‘Diplomacy in the Air’ Award for not replying ‘Yes that’s fine. In fact, why don’t we stop off in Munich and get you some strudel?’
We’d all like an omelette or some strudel. None of us enjoyed the food. But your ludicrous demand has only served to increase my stress levels and pique my ire. Stop it.
You know that planes don’t just fall out of the sky. You know that turbulence is just ‘bumpy air’ (what the ruddy hellfire is ‘bumpy air’????). But when you are suddenly thrown from your seat and the woman behind you starts saying the Lord’s Prayer, it does absolutely NOTHING to reduce your conviction that YOUR DEATH IS ON THE VERY IMMEDIATE AGENDA.
If I can offer you one piece of turbulence-related advice, it is this: do NOT look at the faces of the stewards. Your frantic search for comfort in a calm, smiling face will backfire spectacularly if the steward has
written all over their face. It happened on a flight from New York. I didn’t enjoy it.
Other than all that, I love flying.