I’m waiting for Kris to come home.
Well, more exactly waiting for Kris to land at John Wayne (I’m serious!) Airport so I can pick her up and ferry her home. She flies for a major airline and today has done the round trip to Atlanta. She’s about to get what she calls a “princess pickup,” which turns out to be big wampum among her colleagues — this as opposed to a shuttle ride to her parked car, and then self-piloting her way to her own driveway. Mr. Big here is delighted to serve as the driver, especially since I don’t have to fly myself.
Yep, still can’t get comfortable in the air, after all these years and a number of sessions with a shrink some time ago. I really envy Kris and minions like her who actually enjoy the experience (flying). Then again, as she explains it, there is a decided difference between working a flight and being a passenger. For me, five hours in the air between here and New York is five hours of waiting — not abject terror, but a constant awareness of the hours ticking by. Not surprisingly, several of our friends are in the business and they all consider themselves lousy passengers, given, I guess, the boredom.
Intellectually, of course, you just know that commercial aviation is far safer than driving, almost anywhere. The chances of being in a fatal crash are on the order of one in 1.5 million. By contrast, the American road claims on the order of 50,000 lives a year, so you should be able to strap yourself in with nary a care in the world, but so many don’t. I once had a drama coach who suggested — and this obviously goes back some — that if you wanted to see the whole range of human emotions, sit in a busy railroad station waiting room. Today’s counterpart is the airport terminal (not a really good choice of words) waiting area. Same thing, and I swear you can cut the tension with a knife.
But again, for those who fly for a living — Kris — it is very job-like, with emotions more in tune with the mother in Row 23 who’s trying to corral and handle a pair of impatient kids. Or the irritable woman — this really happened, so I’m told — who found herself frustrated by a TV monitor that wouldn’t work, along with a headset that was equally non-functional. Finally, she looked up and actually said, “So what I am supposed to do, just sit here?” I could have had a couple of suggestions…
It does help to know that I am not alone in my apprehension. There really was a guy who worked in Arizona and was required to fly to a weekly meeting via what amounted to a short flight to another city. He was scared to death, and worse, his boss would always deliver him to the airport, unaware of the guy’s consternation. Yet, what actually happened was that the moment his boss drove away, the guy would run over to a nearby car rental agency, grab a car and drive to the meeting. Now that’s white knuckles fear — albeit with a solution.
But back up there with Kris, she has, from time to time, talked her way into the flight deck so she can have the full effect. She describes how she’s gone into the landing pattern at LAX at night, coming in from Hawaii — from the west, natch — and going against traffic from the east, then hanging a right to get in line. “Pure fun,” is how she relates the experience. “‘Course,” she adds , “you’d be draining your bladder, wouldn’t you?” Gutless me nods in resignation.
On the other hand, if the destination just happened to be Paris, like it was last year…well now that’s a different story.