Weeping In Seat 6D

you are an airplane II
Image by sternenrauschen via Flickr

Oh, my. I am so not fond of turbulence. Is anyone?

Came home this week to New York after a fantastic five days exploring Chicago, flying on small regional jet over the Great Lakes, a 90 minute journey. My flight there was easy and comfortable.

Not the return.

We were warned before takeoff it would be a rough flight, not just for some of it, but all of it. Gulp. When it’s that rough, whatever alcoholic consolation I might have chosen would have probably bathed me at some point. So I desisted and did a lot of deep breathing. I read every single word of the New York Times Book Review (even the kids’ books) to keep myself distracted.

Then I just lost it and started weeping, feeling like the biggest damn baby in the world. Some guy was snoring through it. The poor man in front of me turned around to see what was happening and I apologized. The steward asked if there was anything he could do. I apologized to him but said, truthfully, no.

The plane bucked like a bronco. There’s nothing you can do, so a control freak like me is not happy at such moments. I also know, thanks to a friend who’s a commercial pilot, that they almost always — domestically — have two or more choices of altitude to move into to avoid or at least minimize the chaos. But we didn’t, as the pilot regretfully informed us when we landed.

I was the last off, trying to gather my wits and get my pulse rate down. It was the second-worst experience I’ve had in the air — the longest I’d felt such turbulence was a 10-hour flight from Taipei to San Francisco in 1994. At hour five, the lane shook like mad for about an hour. Flight attendants were told to stay in their seats and not move.

That left me really rattled, which is tough given how much I love to travel to places very far away. All I can do when the plane starts shimmying is try to stay calm and know that pilots really are doing their very best to keep us all safe.

How about you?

Are you a brave bunny in the face of turbulence?

Or (cringes in embarrassment) a blubbering one?

14 thoughts on “Weeping In Seat 6D

  1. Lisa Wields Words

    I’m somewhere between the two. I don’t exactly blubber but I’m surprised the armrests survive my death grip on them.

  2. I am the same as Lisa …. I give the arm rests a death grip!

    I always used to tell myself philosophically that “at 20,000 feet there isn’t much you can do” or once I had turbulence explained to me I moved to such brave thoughts as “oh, I think we are going over the coast now” (someone had explained to me that this is why you get turbulence). So nothing prepared me for 2 minutes after take off at Toronto airport last summer. Granted Toronto is right by a lake but we were flying away from it. I came very close to asking the stewardesses if I could get off , PLEASE!!

    We have been watching Star Trek for 30 years now … surely the airline industry must be getting some ideas!

  3. jacquelincangro

    It’s tough when flights go like that. So hard to feel that there is nothing you can do to change the situation. I find that the older I get the more I am a “white knuckle” rider. Are you usually a calm passenger?

    1. When the flight isn’t bucking wildly, I’m fine!

      But if turbulence is bad and/or lasts more than 15 or 20 minutes, the anxiety and discomfort just wears me out. Embarrassing to admit this, but I suspect I am not alone.

  4. I was a 1K flyer for many years and thought I was completely immune to having in-flight jitters until experiencing a flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong with 30 minutes of bucking over Vietnam; I didn’t think it would stop.

    That experience now falls to second place, however, after a really bumpy ride in a EMB120 twin turboprop had me convinced we’d pitch or roll smack into the mountain range. I swear I could discern the pine needles in the tree branches below us! The flight attendant on that little 20-seater plane was utterly calm and — after what felt like a 20 foot drop — said that what we were experiencing was just like driving an old truck on a country road or a boat in choppy water. I try to imagine those two examples now when flying in turbulence; it seems to help.

    1. I do try that trick — as a sailor — of thinking of the air as water and turbulence as waves on top of it. I’ve flown so much (37 countries, since I was six) that I know what planes do (and should!) sound and feel like at specific moments, so some things don’t bother me. But I wish I could feel calmer when it’s super-choppy.

  5. I’ve never been a fan of landing or taking off, but I think I’m improving.

    This fear wasn’t helped a few years ago on a flight from Seoul to Fukokua in Japan. About half way through the pal e spent about ten minutes flying THROUGH a thunder storm – you could see lightning outside – the and went up and down constantly. I don’t know how anyone else was coping because I had my eyes tightly shut most of the time!

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