Recently, I was eating “the Last Supper” – a scrumptious dinner of homemade veggie lasagna, bread, salad, wine & peach and raspberry crumble for dessert (seriously Super Mom C, Blue’s mama, is unreal in the kitchen, and life in general) and was recalling the time I flew to Florida and back.
“How come I’ve NEVER heard this before?!” exclaimed my kindred, Blue. She’s probably never heard this tale before because it’s straight up embarrassing.
When I was a little girl, I came to possess a Disney World calendar. Each month featured a different and exciting experience one could have at this magical place. I kept this calendar for years after it was no longer of any practical use. I would stare at it fantasizing about how much fun I would have there one day. I remember my birthday month of August had a picture of a “Honey I Shrunk The Kids” 4-D movie. There was also a Tower of Terror photograph for the month of April.
I had to go. I needed to go.
But, alas, my family was poor. So, as a child I did not make it to the happiest place on the planet. But that’s okay because I spent my 21st birthday there, and was able to truly appreciate & remember every second of this truly magnificent place.
But getting there & back is a totally different story.
It was the night before our trip, and my mom and I rented a hotel across the street from Buffalo International Airport so we could easily wake up and head to the airport in the morning. I hadn’t flown since I was 17 years old – three years before – and my flight was a 55 minute trip from Washington D.C. to New York City (more on this later). I really didn’t know what to expect and the flight was barely long enough for me to be afraid anyway.
This was a restless night (I know people say this – but I literally didn’t sleep a goddamned wink). It seemed that every 45 seconds a plane was taking off or landing just over our heads. And I was terrified. The morning came and I wasn’t doing very well. I had some serious nausea from lack of sleep and I was grumpy. We boarded the plane and – thanks to the sound advice of a former teacher and dear mentor of mine, “touch the plane as you are going on, it’s always helped me” – a new tradition was hatched.
Take off is the absolute worst – and a belated apology to everyone who was on that plane with me – because I was bawling my face off. I kept saying to my mom, “I don’t think I’ll make it to Australia! Why did I choose Australia?! I am not going.” (This was around the time when I had finalized my plans to go on a Student Exchange program to Australia in about 6 months). This turned into my mantra on the way there. I’m convinced that everybody on that flight hated my guts. I cried the entire way – non-stop – from Buffalo to Florida. That’s a lot of tears. The plane landed – and I had a phenomenal time in Disney (more on that later) – and it was time for us to board again.
We were at the airport early and so I grabbed a Starbucks grande vanilla latte (my favourite of the thousand varieties…but I’m a Tim Horton’s gal myself) and we walked around the airport. After looking for our gate we realized that our flight had been delayed for an hour. We continued to meander around the endless shops until I happened to glance at another screen which told us that our flight was no longer delayed and was leaving at its original departure time. We scurried to our gate and got on our plane just in time. In addition to the grande vanilla latte that I downed, I had also opted for a 500mL bottle of Dasani water while we were delayed. And as I buckled into my seat, I prayed for a short flight because I knew that my bladder was going to need some relief at a time in the not-so-distant future.
Oh yes, did I mention that I HATE getting up, walking around and using plane washrooms? Because I fucking do. Plane washrooms were not an option at this point in my life.
Anyway, after my mental breakdown upon takeoff I made a friend in my neighbouring seat. An off-duty flight attendant. She was honestly too kind to me. She was quick to inform me about all of the noises that the plane was making and how I should feel very safe – the pilot operating our aircraft was an exceptionally qualified man..blah blah blah. Nothing quells my fear in the air. Nothing.
A short while later the captain announced that we should return to our seats and prepare ourselves for landing. At this point, the saying “I have to pee like a racehorse” was an absolute understatement. I had to pee so badly that I couldn’t even sit up straight. I’m too damn stubborn sometimes. It was awful. And everybody on that plane knew about it. I’m literally that bad.
We landed safely, and (oh my life, sometimes..) the flight attendants asked all passengers behind me to remain in their seats so that I could bolt to the bathroom. And boy oh boy did I. (TMI alert). I peed for so long – I mean actually. I peed an entire bladder’s worth of urine. It was divine. And when I exited the bathroom mostly all of the passengers had already disembarked. The flight attendants were chatting with me at that point about how well I did on the flight. I noticed the co-pilot sitting in one of the aisles eating some food. He congratulated me on how well I did on the flight, also. We talked about how much safer planes are than cars (heard it a million times…) and how flight is the safest means of transportation. Then, he asked, “Would you like some wings?” And, of course I responded with, “No, thank you. I’m a vegetarian.”
The entire flight crew erupted in laughter.
“No, no. Not those kind of wings. These kind of wings.” He produced a brooch with pilot wings on them. To this day my mom doesn’t let me live that down.
After we disembarked, I bee-lined it for the washroom because – you guessed it – I still had more pee left in me. I peed another bladder’s worth of urine before I felt normal again. And in my I-have-to-pee-so-bad-and-I’m-totally-riddled-with-anxiety induced stupor, I had forgotten my boarding pass for the next flight on the sink in the airport washroom briefly. Fortunately, nobody picked it up and I found it 15 minutes later, soaking wet, but intact. We hopped on our next plane – not before I placed my hand on the planes exterior – and were hoping for smooth sailing.
But, alas we were delayed significantly on the tarmac. The captain came on over the P.A. and announced that we were to disembark from the aircraft because part of the landing gear in the plane was not working. It would take a while for them to repair what was broken (always what a scared flyer wants to hear). It wasn’t too long of a delay before we were back aboard and in the air.
And I made another friend. It’s always wonderfully bizarre how kind and compassionate people are when somebody is frightened on planes. I had an army vet seated next to me and he gave me a number of tricks to help with my anxiety while flying. He was an extremely kind guy – and I have encountered the same advice on a number of occasions since: Take two fingers and tap them in a consistent rhythm on your wrist or neck near your pulse. It will distract you from your anxiety which will ultimately slow down your heart rate, calming you down. I haven’t exactly had success with this technique, but I’m not writing it off yet!
We landed safely back in Buffalo and drove back home to Canada – all the while I was second guessing my desire to travel the world, to go to Australia and to ever – EVER – get on a plane again.
I did indeed get to Australia, though. But that’s for another time.