My stepmom used to say that if a frog had wings he wouldn't bump his ass. Kind of a head scratcher, I know. I say that if people had wings, air travel would be obsolete, and the makers of tranquilizers and booze wouldn't be filthy rich. Instead, our lack of birdlike evolution means we common folk fly commercial, curled in the fetal position and chasing sedatives with vodka – or maybe that's just me.
My recent trip to visit family in Connecticut further cemented my bias against air travel. Because the drive would have been twenty hours each way, I had to fly. Bad news for me, as I hate flying and would rather sell one of my kidneys on Craigslist to pay for the gas required to make the trip than get on an airplane. Credit the Valium I ate or the anticipation of seeing family, but I handled my flights (changed planes in Atlanta) to Connecticut rather well.
It was getting out of the first airport that made me question the bucks we shell out for beefed up airport security. There we all stood, a line of shoeless and jacketless drones, pushing plastic bins of our stuff down a roller belt. Let's all pause for a collective sigh/eye roll.
My first trip through metal detector: unsuccessful.
"Please empty your pockets." A female airport security agent stopped me.
"I already did that (along with removing my shoes, artificial nails, hair extensions, temporary tattoos, false eyelashes, bellybutton ring, etc). Why don't you just have us all run through here naked? It would be a real time saver."
She motioned me forward with latex-gloved hands. "I'm going to use the backs of my hands to pat you down."
I shrugged. "Pat away, sister. This will be the most action my ass has seen in months."
After determining the metal studs on the back pockets of my jeans (everything's Bedazzled these days) as the problem, she ushered me along to the next agent, who zeroed in on my bottle of contact lens solution. He plucked it out of the bin and produced an important-looking chemistry set. Hoping for another free feel-up, I watched in amazement (and disappointment) as Beaker tested my contact cleaner for a national security threat. Nice to know he found work after The Muppet Show. While he waited for the results, another guy walked over and dusted my hands with some giant airport Swiffer swab thingy, checking for who knows what.
After the stupid human tricks concluded, I went on my way and wondered how many actual freaks got past security while time and money was being wasted on me. Thankfully, my Valium veil and the pat-down afterglow kept me calm for the rest of the way to Hartford. During the return trip, however, I developed a strong sense of appreciation for being an earthbound creature.
We have all heard about flying being safer than driving, but that can be hard to believe at thirty thousand feet. A friend advised me to sit at the wing, so I upgraded my seats, which meant sitting at an exit. Sitting in an exit row means you must yank off the emergency exit door in the event of an emergency. As luck would have it, a rather buff, clean cut gentleman sat next to me on the flight from Hartford to Atlanta. I leaned over and briefed him on my version of emergency procedure before my Valium kicked in and after the flight attendant mimed her part.
"Excuse me. Hi." I flashed him what I hoped was a sane smile. "Just so we're clear, here's how it's going down should things hit the fan. You're going to tap into your Herculean strength and rip that door off the plane. As for my part, I'll be clinging to your back like a wild koala bear. We good?" I gave his arm a little pat.
"We're good," he laughed, and turned back to his iphone. A more intuitive man would have seen the red flag and feigned an urgent (and permanent) trip to the restroom. Bless his heart, this man had no idea how that flight would make him go Greyhound the next time he traveled.
As we sped down the runway toward impending doom, my grip on the armrests tightened and my body stiffened to the point that I wouldn't have been surprised to see a picture of myself within days on the internet, the caption reading "Planking on a Plane." I turned to my new neighbor and sent him a pleading look as the nose lifted and we began our ascent.
"Oh, boy, oh, boy…I do not like this part. Not at all," I panted. Fear clenched my intestines. The higher we climbed, the more my stomach made me of aware of its desire to descend.
"You're not a fan of flying?" Gee, what gave me away? The wild-eyed look of terror on my ashen face? The shaking and erratic breathing? Tough to say.
"I'll b-be okay once the Viagra, uh, I mean Valium goes to w-work. If you'll just keep talking t-t-to me until we l-level out, I'll be fine." I offered a brave smile and tried to ignore the grey fog that threatened the edges of my vision.
We chatted, or mostly I forgot words and babbled my way through my anxiety attack until we reached cruising altitude. When I had calmed to a coherent state and extracted my fingernails from Delta's blue economy seat, I tried to engage this tolerant man in some type of conversation that didn't make me look like the frantic mess I was.
"So, what kind of work do you do?"
He turned to me and smiled. "I'm an army psychologist."
"You don't say."
Changing planes at the airport in Atlanta played out like an episode of The Amazing Race. Without a moody, unreliable sidekick for support, and a mere forty minutes before my next flight, I had to haul myself from gate T to gate D to catch my next plane. Advertising one lie after another, a series of arrows led me to what the airport calls an "Automated People Mover," or an indoor tram, similar to a subway. Riding on the APM feels like being blasted out of a cannon from gate to gate. I hugged a vertical pole for dear life, or I'd have blown out of my Skechers. Twice.
The final flight home looked promising until I learned that our flight attendants were trainees. Another Valium, another exit row, and another unsuspecting male passenger for me, thank you. This young man and I chatted for a bit, before he turned to his Bible and began muttering something about casting out demons and sending me furtive glances.
Once my mind reached a pleasantly altered state I tried to engage him in intelligent conversation. Note to self: Your ADHD brain-to-mouth filter has an even higher failure rate under the influence of prescription medication.
I leaned over and pointed to the bald flight attendant trainee seated in front of us.
"Hey, ya think if we connected the dots on his head they'd make a constellation?"
Where are those do-overs when you need them?
By the time I got home, I was too miserable to whine about the heat and what the kids hadn't accomplished in my absence. Grateful for solid ground and crappy laminate flooring, I dragged my luggage to my room and flopped on my bed in exhaustion. I don't care what anyone says. Human beings should submit to gravity and stay on the ground. It is what nature intended.