Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pleasant Activity -- NOT!

For a person who hates to fly, I find it bizarre that I am on the verge of making the Continental Silver Elite frequent flyer program this year. We flew from San Antonio to Seattle yesterday to complete the final stage of packing and moving our stuff out of the house. The flight itself was fine, but I had a brief interlude of hyperventilating for a few minutes after we took off. I can laugh about it later, but I have to admit that the slightest deviation from what I think of as the normal pattern freaks me right out.

Yeah; I know I'm an idiot, but I just can't help it. When the plane takes off, it usually ascends fairly rapidly, and then a flight attendant makes some pointless announcement thanking me for flying their crappy airline and telling me they have mixed drinks available for $5 and that someone will be along shortly if I wish to purchase headphones for the movie. I don't care what the announcement says (unless it's telling me to assume the crash position); I only care that it does happen. My logic for caring is that I've concluded that if something happens to the plane on take-off, the flight attendants probably aren't going to be worrying about collecting my dollar for headphones!

So yesterday we took off and I waited for the announcement that helps me stop panicking. I've trained myself to remain calm when the engines switch from a sort of high pitched whine to a roar. That normally happens at a certain altitude, and it normally happens within the first two minutes after take-off. The announcement generally follows the change in the engine sounds within about a minute. I know when it usually happens because I time it. So I waited for the announcement. And I waited. The window shade was down because it was really sunny and hot, so at first, I looked at my watch instead of looking out the window. After about 5 minutes, I noticed that my ears weren't popping as they normally do as the plane increases its altitude. I raised the window shade ... and started hyperventilating.

My ears weren't popping because we were still so low to the ground. Too low. I must have made a little gasp because DH asked me what was wrong. I pointed at the window.

"Oh yeah," he nodded, "that's the Woodlands. I hear they have a really nice mall."

"Um ... right," I said. "That's the mall right there. I think I can read the license plates on the cars!"

DH laughed, but I wasn't kidding! I was, in fact, trying to work out whether to head for the forward exit when we crashed or the one behind us since we were midway between them.

Six minutes passed, and then seven -- no ear pops and no announcement. "Don't you think we're flying awfully low?" I asked him.

"Maybe, but what's the big deal? It's not as if anything is wrong. We're still in the air."

"Why don't they make the announcement then?"

He looked bewildered. "What announcement?"

"You know," I said. "The one about the drinks and earphones."

"Who cares? Nobody listens to that anyway."

"Holy Mother of God," I said. "Of course nobody listens to that dumb announcement, but when they make it, it means the flight attendants aren't making burial arrangements!"

DH laughed again. "Holy Mother of God? You are such a goofball." He's entertained by my occasional bouts of melodrama.

I looked at my watch again. "It's been eight minutes. Do you think we should try for the forward exit or the rear one?"

"I think you should stop hyperventilating," he said. "You're going to pass out if you don't quit that. I'm going to read my book, but maybe you should ask the guy sitting next to the door if he would change seats with you. That way you can be the first one out when we crash."

I informed him that he sucked and he agreed with me and went back to reading his book.

The announcement was made after 9 minutes. I had a ginger ale.


Taminator said...

I can so identify! When we were flying back from Hawaii, my ears started popping around 3 hours into the flight and I knew it was a good 5 and a half hour flight so why in the hell were we changing altitude? That couldn't be a good sign. I kept picturing myself on LOST for the next season but apparently I was the only one who even noticed. Certainly Jeff didn't--he was zoned out.

Nanci said...

I'm not to the point of timing things but I *need* to hear the little ding that tells us we can now use our "portable electronic devices." Once I hear that (which, now that I think about it, is usually right before your announcement), I can breathe easy. I also hate that high pitched whine to roar sound transfer.

I've gotta go to LA this weekend, on the 11th, to be exact. Need I tell you, we are driving?

Anonymous said...

I so want to tell you all sorts of flight horror stories. I also so want to live a few more years. I think I shall refrain....

Tess said...

You and I should NEVER fly together. I'm the same way!!! Poor Sean goes through the same thing as your DH does. It's why I don't like flying alone as I try to hyperventilate quietly so as not to freak out my seat mate.

Glad the flight was ok after all :) Would love to know why you were flying so low for the first little while, though!