Fear of flying. The medical terminology is aerophobia. About 1 in 3 flyers experience some level of it, and around 40% of American adults suffer from it. So what does it feel like to really be afraid to fly?
On a trip with her granddaughters that involved crossing the Pacific Ocean, I… I mean my friend Sally… had one job – to keep the girls entertained on the long flight as the family headed to the Happiest Place on Earth. I… I mean she… really wanted her granddaughters to make this trip because she didn’t want them to grow up with this “island mentality” of nothing existing beyond the sandy shores, and she also knew her daughter needed her help in keeping an eye on the two young girls. So despite her fear of flying, which she of course never spoke of in front of them, she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and went along on their very first family vacation.
She’s one of those people that once she reaches the point of inevitably – as in everyone was buckled into their seats and the airplane was taxiing down the runway – she lets her fears go and just rolls with the punches. All was going well on the flight. They girls colored, and they played card games. They ate airplane food and watched a movie… and then the turbulence hit. This was turbulence so strong and bumpy that some passengers let out screams and even the faces of the flight attendants looked concerned.
One of the girls had a cup of juice on her tray table, so Sally – let’s just call her grandma – picked it up so it wouldn’t spill, but the turbulence was so bad that the juice was jumping out of the cup. It didn’t help that they were seated in the very last row where you can feel turbulence the absolute most. She held the cup out in the aisle so as not to get wet, all the while saying words of comfort to the girls who were sobbing and had cried out:
“We’re going to die!”
Grandma’s heart was racing like a galloping horse, but she kept her calm and said things like, “Oh, this is nothing. This happens all the time. It will be over soon, you’ll see.” Then she turned to her daughter and silently mouthed the words, “God help us.”
Well, I’m writing this story… I mean about my friend… so of course, everyone made it through the turbulence just fine like Grandma said they would, except for the juice. Most of it was on the aisle floor with the cup nearly empty. But that’s not the end of the story.
They had made it and disembarked. They found their hotel and spent many happy memory-filled days on vacation. It was a trip of many firsts for the granddaughters – first plane ride and first time at Disneyland. Before you know it, the time had come to return home.
After arriving at the airport for the return flight, grandma started having a major panic attack once she saw the airplane. She whispered to her daughter, “There is no way I am getting on that plane.” Her daughter asked her, “Well then what are you going to do?” The response came with tear-filled eyes, “I don’t know! I guess I have to stay and live here.”
And she meant it. Because all she knew is that she wasn’t going to be able to make herself walk onto that plane. So what other alternative was there but to relocate her life in California? After all, she’d done her job. She got them there and helped watch out for them. They could go home and live their lives there while she stayed here.
This is what real fear of flying can do. It can stop you dead in your tracks, it can prevent you from living the kind of travel life you want to lead, especially if you live on an island in the middle of the ocean. Fear of flying really puts a huge wrinkle in any travel dreams in that situation.
It was so bad that she called her best friend in corn country. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t get on that plane!” Her bestie stayed very calm and reassured her that they were all going to be okay, but despite what she said, the panic was still there. Then in true form as only a best friend would know what to say, her friend asked her, “Are the girls looking at you?” “Yes, I think they’re wondering if something is wrong with me.” “They are watching what you’re doing. If they see you panicking, they’re going to start to freak out.” “Oh no. We can’t have that.” “No, we can’t.” “Okay, you’re right. I have to pull myself together for their sake.” After some very strong praying, she did gather up the fortitude to hold their hands and board the plane, and fortunately, it was smooth sailing the entire way home.
And can we just end this story by sending an almighty thank you to the manufacturers of Xanax?No tags for this post.