Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane (aka - please tell me I packed the tranquilizers)

I love to travel.

I hate to fly.

Now, in another life I was an airborne traffic reporter - which means that I would climb into a tiny little airplane 5 afternoons a week and fly around the city and tell everyone just how bad their drive home was going to be.  And with only a couple of exceptions, I never had a problem doing that day in and day out for 5 years.  Which comes out to about...what...2.5 hours, times 5 days a week; multiplied by 52 weeks a year...for 5 years....carry the 6, subtract the 12, factor in holidays and vacation (wait...I never took vacation....add those back in)...so I have roughly 3,200 flight hours under my belt.

And yet...I still hate to fly.

Some people have issues with getting to the airport to begin with - and I get that.  Getting to the airport 2 hours before your flight can make for an early start - especially for a 7am flight (which, if you do the math, means I was up at about 3:45 this morning).   If you leave early, however, traffic isn't too nasty - until you get to the airport itself. Wait in line, wait in line, wait in line....then you can pull your car up to the curb and finally get out.

There are those who hate the check-in process.  All the advancements of modern technology, and we still have to stand in an hour long line only and hope that our luggage makes it to our destination.  I can get better odds in Vegas; which is why I don't check luggage anymore.  I simply won't part with my bag on the off chance that it ends up in a better destination than I do.  If I'm not going to Hawaii - my jeans and t-shirts sure as heck ain't.

Then there's airport security.  Stand in line - hand over your boarding pass - smile - proceed to the next stop.  Stand in line, stand in line, stand in line...hand over your boarding pass again and six forms of ID (including, but not limited to a blood sample and baby teeth).  Get the once over.  Smile.  Try to not look suspicious.  Get the second look-over.  Smile again - little trepidation this time "yes, sir, that really is me in the photo- 10 pounds ago with slightly shorter hair and a different color, but I promise you it's me".  Get the nod of approval and whatever code it is they write on your boarding pass.  For example:  CBS - cooperative but sketchy; NKFS - no known fashion sense - or in my case:

Which I figure has to stand for "Nice Smile/Hot Bod."

(or "Nearly Sober/Heavy Breather" - I can't really tell which.  Unless the "H" is a "W" - then I got nothin').

Anyway.  Then you have to go through the super-scanner.  Again, some people don't like this part; personally, I don't really care.  If you really want to know how many pairs of socks I pack or what color bra I'm wearing today - that's cool.  I would find it more interesting if I wore all those socks at once or no bra at all; but who knows what all these TSA people see in a day.  I've said it before and I stand by my opinion - if we combined airport security with the healthcare industry, I think we could get a great jump start on preventative medicine for people.  Get your CAT scan and a secure flight all in one easy stop.  Personally, I like giving the TSA people my best smile and bodybuilding pose when I walk in the scanner.  Oh yeah, I flex.  Grrrr.  And then when I get the smirk and the "maybe after a few less cheeseburgers and a few more reps in the gym" look, I know I'm good to go and proceed onward.  Piece of cake.

So see, I can get through all of that.  It's when I get into the terminal and I see that big tube of aluminum with windows glaring back at me that I get the heebee geebees.   The rational side of my brain tells me that this is perfectly safe - that more people are injured in car accidents each year.  But the irrational side of my brain (aka the other 98%) says "yeah, but when you're in a car accident...

you don't have as far down to fall."

But from experience, I know it will take me 48-52 hours and many, many gallons of caffeine to get across country, so I suck it up, hand over my boarding pass and step onto the airplane.

I get settled in - realize I don't have any screaming children behind me or around me, buckle in and prepare for takeoff.  Racing down the tarmac is always a little stressful - but once we're up in the air and I can peel my fingers off the armrest, I start to breathe again.  A little turbulence here and there rattles me a bit - but as long as I don't see the flight attendants running down the aisle in a panic, that keeps me calm and collected.

After a little while into the flight, I find myself starting to relax.  Maybe this is OK - I tell myself.  Nothing to worry about - nothing to fret.  People do this every day with no problems.  I mean - we're at a nice cruising altitude....what's the worst that could happen right?

Damn.  Where's William Shatner when I need him?