Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Here I go again

It's time for the great trip home. So much to do this week I might have to stay in bed under the covers. And then, of course, there's the growing eruption in my stomach as I contemplate hurtling over the Atlantic, in the middle of the night, thousands of feet above freezing cold water. In short, I hate flying. I know it's irrational, I'm safer in a plane than in a car etc. but reason goes out the window at the slightest whiff of turbulence. (And the sodding clear air turbulence incident on the Continental flight from South America to Houston today didn't help matters.)

If you sat next to me on a flight, you wouldn't know that I was almost sick with fear. Well, if you glanced at my knuckles you might. I used to think my dread was due to the fact that I was making the journey alone with two very small children. It's almost impossible to travel with all the paraphernalia that's needed - car seats, pack-up cribs/cots, booster seats etc. Disturbingly,(if that's a word - it is now) the fact that all three are now old enough to board unassisted, and more or less entertain themselves on the flight hasn't registered with my subconscious. So it must be just the fact that I'm 38,000 feet above non-solid ground and not driving!

Funny really, because the one flight where I did have an "incident" found me rather calm in the face of it. I took the night flight with my then 3 and 5 year olds, from Chicago to Glasgow. An hour into the flight the pilot announced we were turning back as a light showed that there might be something wrong with a valve. It apparently could have just been the light but they weren't taking any chances. And my reaction? Annoyed that I would probably have to wake my two sleeping kids. Have you any idea how lucky a parent is to have both kids asleep within an hour of taking off? As we approached Chicago the pilot added the "... and another thing" nugget. Since we hadn't been able to dump the fuel on an unsuspecting USA, there would be a long line of fire engines on the runway, just in case.....

Happily -

we weren't burnt to a crisp, AND they said we could stay on the plane; they were just going to mend it. Normally I might have been a tad worried about flying with a once-dodgy valve, but hey, my kids were still asleep and were actually getting almost a full night as opposed to six or seven hours. We eventually took off four hours after the scheduled departure time.

Then .....(oh there's more) a poor lady went into a diabetic coma of some sort on the floor in the kitchen area right behind our seats. Her family members were frantic and when no doctor appeared to be on this flight, I heard the flight attendants talking about radio-ing Rekjavik for landing permission. I know it's only a two hour flight from Glasgow, but we were all going to have to get off (ie. wake the kids up) and go through immigration. Fortunately for all, the woman came round and seemed none the worse for her experience.

As we approached our Glasgow landing, the plane suddenly aimed for the sky and everyone was pinned back in their seats. Anyone been in an aborted landing? We did another three of these, at which point I decided this flight was not meant to be and consigned myself to the inevitable. (I think I was so tired by this time as to be slightly deranged.) Obviously we were all fine, but when my mother saw my ashen face when I walked into the Arrivals lounge she guessed it had been a long night!

PS. In case anyone suggests I have a night cap - I would love to, except that on a flight when the Queenager was my only one (5 months) we had 3.5 hours of turbulence. I had a glass of wine to steady my nerves - and was filling up the sick bags about 30 minutes later!



  1. So I won't mention the 2 times my flight has been hit by lightning then??

  2. I do understand & I do sympathize.
    I don't like flying either and what's more, I won't even go on the London Underground (or any other underground or a lift) without someone else with me.
    Being in an aircraft is a bit like that. You are not in control of the situation. The need to travel is stronger though than the fear......!
    Look at statistics....... and enjoy your holiday.

  3. Yes, us expats who hate flying have the joy of weighing up the pros of seeing friends, family and home with the 'excitement' of the long-haul flight. And that north atlantic route during the night often seems to be bumpy and icky. I remember a lightening storm over hudson bay once... Ugh. Ive had a few of these experiences. I was laughing when you described the kids being asleep as a motivation for staying on the plane--I too would have been exactly the same!

  4. PS Im no longer afraid of flying, NLP helped me with that! Its liberating. Now I just take Rescue Remedy for fear of forgetting one of the 7 passports in our group, or a booking ref for a car company or something that would cause the furious moans of a group of teens...

    As Maggie May says, the statistics are on your side. Enjoy your time home :)

  5. The most exciting thing that's happened to me during a flight is my apple rolling down the plane.

    I've booked night flights before hoping the kids would sleep but it jus seemed to make them more alert.

    Good luck. What about some natracalm type tablets?

  6. when my book comes out (!) it will not be about the scares and frights of flying across the atlantic once and sometimes several times a year for the last 28 years, but there will be several chapters on the nutjobs i've sat next to, the kids i've wanted to murder in the seat behind me, the events i've endured in departure lounges, and layovers, delays, obnoxious flight crews, lost luggage and damaged belongings, airport bogs, cramped seats and PEOPLE WHO PUT THEIR SEAT BACK WHILE I'M TRYING TO EAT ME DINNER! oops sorry.
    have a good flight! ;-)

  7. I am biting my nails as the first flight with little L is coming up - from London to NY. We might pass each other in the air. I'll wave if I see a green-faced woman filling up bags in an airplane next to ours.

    PS: Most airplane incidences happen on the ground. Keep your seatbelts fastened!

  8. Aborted landing - yes, terrifying. Happened to me in Sydney. I hate landing now.

    Sister in law had a near miss experience once and now has to take valium every time she flies -but renders her completely incapable of looking after kids, so probably wouldn't work for you!

    Another friend of mine was terrified of flying, but went on various courses to get over it. The irony of it is that she ended up marrying a pilot, moving to Dubai and now spends her entire time flying back and forth to the UK with two small children.

  9. I share your fear of flying and don't think it is irrational at all (that's the problem). If I could I would drive to Glasgow. Since I'm flying there next year for the first time in 10 years, I chose to skip your story because I'll never get that picture out of my head. I'll be popping a Xanax before I get on the palne.

    I'm excited for your trip though. I hope we get to see lots of photos. By the way, I now have a personal blog at www.creatureofculture.com

  10. THREE aborted landings? Yikes, had the pilot left the training course before they reached the bit about landing the plane?

    Relax your thigh muscles, and do the breathing you learnt about for labour. And take some good reading material - short stories or something.

    I gave my kids sleeping stuff last summer. One of them peed on the seat and it stank. The other went into such a deep slumber that I kept having to find his pulse, because even blowing on his face didn't make his eyelids flicker (and it was the minimum dose, and I'd tested it a few nights before, so I wasn't being totally irresponsible). It rather put me off ever taking stuff myself - I like to retain some vestige of control.

    Good luck!

  11. Good luck and have a nice vacation! I used to love flying until I had to do it with my kids (3 and 1). If I ever get to travel for business I revel in the 10+ hours of alone time in that buzzing metal tube, just me and my book and a glass of wine!

  12. Thanks everyone. I know I will be fine and I have a little diazapan pill if needed, although I only dare take one - I still feel like I"m going to plunge to my death but I can't get as worked up about it. I would take more but it would render me an unfit mother.
    All this packing to do first, and the bloody kids keep wearing what I want to take. I'll be doing laundry on Friday afternoon!

  13. Well, bon voyage! It'll be fine, don't worry. Take it from me!

  14. I can relate. I'm terrified of turbulence, in a completely irrational way. My job is to teach new student pilots the theory of flying. Got that? I teach the hows & whys of flight and I am still terrified! I even invented a new word - nerbulent, to describe my feeling of being nervous about turbulence. I find I don't respond to rationality when it comes to turbulence. So, unfortunately, there is nothing to be done for people like us, we just must suffer.

    The only thing that slightly helps me is watching my pilot husband asleep beside me during episodes of turbulence. If he is not concerned, then I shouldn't be. One thing I do try is just to visualize that the "bumps" we feel in the air are just like bumps on a rural road - I drive over bumpy roads all the time and never worry about plummeting from the sky! Does it help? Hmmmm....

  15. Relax. I hope the flight goes well, or as well as a flight can (I'm with you on the Hate To Fly thing, and I don't care what anyone says about statistics, etc). You'll be back on solid (British) ground before you know it.

  16. Have a great time home and thanks for the tip about having night caps.

    -A Modern Mother

  17. Global gal - too funny. I must admit I spend a lot of time watching the crew. When they make the flight attandants sit down I get a bit more wobbly!

  18. Flying in to Manchester, we were once re-directed to London on account of freezing fog, then they decided to try again for Manchester! Or was it vice versa? Anyroad, the hubby's poor dad was driving all over hell and damnation to pick us up. We ended up renting a car and beating him home!


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