Sunday, 23 August 2009

Flying Without Wings

Why me? Why always me? I have one big phobia in life, one, flying, and the fear is real, palpable and manifests in increasing bouts of panic accompanied by moments of insanity. I once, midway across the Atlantic shouted (loudly) does anybody else smell smoke. That's how scared I am of flying, it induces madness.
The fear however is inversely proportional to the size of the plane, the bigger it is the better I feel. I'm not sure why I think it's something to do with suspension of reality. In a really really big plane I can sit in the middle, far from the windows and pretend none of this is happening. They also have sections so you can only see a select few people, which looks much more reassuring than a whole plane full of expectant holiday makers preparing to meet their doom.
So it was looking dodgy before I even boarded flight 1844 to Majorca. For a start it was a prop plane. A prop plane! I swear they follow me around the country, in fact there may just be one, old prop plane in service that the powers above pull out just for me whenever I book a holiday. Prop planes shudder and shake and (most frighteningly) display far too much of their inner workings than I care to see. One is never completely reassured when the brightest minds in aeronautical engineering decide that two ceiling fans are just what's needed to keep this plane on the correct trajectory.
At least when the fans are hidden you can kid yourself that chains and cogs and other man made stuff are not responsible for keeping the plane up. Instead a host of fairies and heavenly bodies are beating their wings furiously (but most importantly magically), and holding the vehicle aloft in flight. No relying on Barry The Engineer coming to work with a hangover and servicing my plane with half an eye on a chip buttie, oh no, angels and fairies are responsible for my flight, and they don't make mistakes (or drink).
So I got on the plane with a huge sense of foreboding, sat down and clutched the arm rests looking all around me like some scary eyed lemming. The captain came over the tannoy welcoming us to flight 1844 and wishing us well, which was good, he sounded optimistic and soothed my nerves a little. I mean if the captain thinks we've got a chance of making it then we may well do, excellent.
But then he made his fatal error, one that removed any thought that he may be able to make an accurate prediction as to our survival chances. He made a joke.
Noooooooooooo. Husband shifted uncomfortably in his seat, he knew, he knew. I did not, under any circumstances want a Captain who would rather be a comedian. Forget aspirations of fame and fortune and trying out your material on your passengers. I mean focus on the job man. The important one of steering the plane to Spain. I mean, we wouldn't even be a good measure of the joke's success anyway would we? We were bound to laugh, he was the only one who knew how to fly the plane.
I didn't want some jolly sounding captain who delivered the weather report in a jocular fashion. I wanted a serious captain, one who delivered the weather report with a deep voice, slightly strained from the years at Cambridge studying the finer points of plane flying. One who had emerged after ten years graft, blinking in the sun clutching a first class honours in Averting Disaster, and a special interest thesis in Keeping The Little Seatbelt Light On To Stop Passengers Getting Up And Possibly Rocking The Plane. But no, instead we got Ko Ko the Kaptin, who probably steers the plane with his knees while working on material for his next gig. Whoop di do.
So it was up to me, I had to be the eyes and ears of the plane. The pilot wasn't up to it obviously, he was jocular with unfulfilled dreams. It was me or my maker, and I wasn't ready for that yet. I dutifully reported every rattle, every air pocket and every hum to the air stewards, I checked the wings every two minutes for signs of leakage, fire or falling offness and reported back solemnly. I was a help I tell you, a help, take that Ko Ko, ha!
I'm not sure about what happened next it all went a bit hazy, because this was the point at which the free wine started arriving, as much as I liked smiled the air steward, did he know how much that would be? Apparently they'd never done this before, but they were making a special allowance just for little old me. Probably as a thankyou for all my hard work or something.

20 comments:

Mr London Street said...

I was beginning to wonder where you had gone!

Mwa said...

You are right. You do not want a joker flying your plane. I'm amazed you survived.

Mud in the City said...

So I won't tell you about when my plane got hit by lightning... twice...?

Thought not.

Gorilla Bananas said...

He should have invited you to the cockpit and let you fly the plane for a bit. It's the best treatment for air nerves.

AnyEdge said...

Dear Millenium Housewife,

As you may know from reading my own blog, I am a Doctor of Science in Systems Engineering. In my expert capacity as a recognised and erudite member of the society of engineers, let me explain to you that the only thing acutally keeping aerocraft aloft is the combined terror of the occupants. Terror causes to the passengers to hyperventilate; the resulting vector of downward air pressure assists in creating the 'Pontoon of Bouyancy" upon which you must float.

So the pilot's jocularity is actually a carefully calibrated method of lightening the craft.

AnyEdge.

AnyEdge said...

Please note! This is why you must NEVER TILT YOUR HEAD BACK while panicking on a plane. You could kill everyone aboard.

Vicus Scurra said...

You do realise that the planet is flying through space, the only force governing it is the very dubious concept called gravity?
Not to mention the movement of the solar system, nor the theory that the universe is expanding?
Sometime or other it is going to bump into some other expanding universe, and that won't be very nice, will it?
I hope that this helps.

rosiero said...

I am sure you are not alone in your worries. Most people don't like flying, if only they would admit it! Like you, any change in engine sound, or the sight of a cog in the wing flaps, has me concentrating like mad to keep the plane airbourne!! I once saw smoke coming out of the ceiling while we were waiting for take-off at Los Angeles and I called the air hostess. Imagine my embarrassment when she said it was condensation vapour and would dissipate once we had taken off. I have actually seen great big 737s doing loop the loop at airshows and I am a little more reassured that just going in a straight line to my holiday destination is a piece of cake for them! Hilarious post, as always!

Ladybird World Mother said...

Quite right too... hope you checked everyone's oxygen too... surprised you werent offered spirits. Keeps me quiet on planes. Only thing that does... xx

Clare W said...

Arg Nit 200c

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I too am not fond of flying. I mean I will get on a plane to go somewhere, fully aware it's a safe and logical option as opposed to driving for fourteen years, but don't think I like it. I like the view from the air. I like the airport. I like the sensation of take off and landing.

I don't like that I spend an entire flight anxiously regarding the engines to make sure they're still there. Or if that suspicious looking flap on the wing is SUPPOSED to be doing that. Or if that spot of turbulence was really some ultra important plane appendage breaking off in mid air.

Or that one time my plane had a rudder problem and had to dump fuel in the middle of the North Sea and fly to Amsterdam for help, and I had to see us land amid a sea of firetrucks who thought we might explode.

Free alcohol is just magic. Drugs are even better. Sedatives. Make you grin the whole flight. Really. My doctor cheerfully hands them over on demand for flights.

ella said...

I'm with The Vegetable Assassin - it's drugs all the way for me. Which is tricky when I'm supposed to be awake and looking after the small children who are coming with me.

Millennium Housewife said...

MLS, never let on you're going away, it might jinx coming back in one piece

Mwa, finally, someone who agrres, I was amazed too!

Mud, noooooooo (how're the scabs?)

GB, I tried, I really did, something about wine and flying a plane or some such nonsense. Either way he said no.

AnyEdge, which proves it's appropriate to panic...

VS, I'm coming over to yours to give you a good ticking off. You have been warned. Hurtling through space indeed, haven't you see a globe? We're attached to a long stick with a light on.


Rosiro, weirdly that did help..


LWM you may travel with me anytime

CW tried mum's, no sucess, I think I'm a bit of an enigma!

TVA, you could have written this post, great minds and all

Ella, that's why I invite Husband on holiday with me, to be the sober one

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Here's what I want to know: if a plane is hurtling through the air at 90,000 miles an hour, if you jump up in the air and stay up for a few seconds, why don't you land at the back of the plane? No one has been able to solve this mystery.

nappy valley girl said...

Know what you mean about KoKo the Kaptin, but I think I'd be more worried if the captain sounded serious (= nervous?) - at least if he's joking he's not worried about anything!

Dingo said...

Oh, the stories I could tell you about my 3 1/2 years as a flight attendant. But I won't. Because then you wouldn't fly at all and the prop plane pilot really needs the work.

Debbie said...

Bless your heart! Yes, some professions are meant to be serious. Pilots are one of those.

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Ha ha. My god, MH, flying is also my biggest fear. My husband hates travelling on a plane with me, which is why we have travelled by car to the south of france for the last three years. 12 hours in the car versus 2 hours in the plane? I will take the car. I tug at air stewardesses sleeves asking, if it's going to be a bumpy ride, if so for how long etc etc. Husband pretends he doesn't know me. I even went on a BA fear of flying course with other such losers. Were you there? Next time I fly, in say, 2052, I will try the free wine...

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Just to prove I am not just trying to be like you...http://aconfusedtakethatfan.blogspot.com/2008/06/be-nice.html

Erin M. said...

I'm so glad I've discovered you/your blog! Very funny/entertaining. I can't stand flying either, and have been known to have panic attacks & hyperventilate while on board. I agree with you--the bigger the plane the better. Also enjoying your "Things I have said to ___" posts!