Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like to fly and those who don't. 

Remember when flying was fun? When your luggage flew for free and security meant checking to make sure you hadn't forgotten your ticket?

When I was a kid, flying was a big deal. It was expensive (by my family's standards, at least) and people still got dressed up to travel. Flying was such a special event that I remember exactly what I wore for my first flight — to Florida when I was 12 years old. My mom had made me a brand new outfit: heather brown elephant bell pants, a melon colored halter top and a cropped, window-pane-checked jacket with short princess sleeves. Wait, don't forget the platform sandals — the literal and figurative height of '70s fashion.

We were not a family of frequent flyers. My dad was, and still is, terrified of flying. His first flight, from Detroit to New York, was so turbulent that he took a train home. When he did have to fly for work, the only way he managed was with "greenies" and martinis. In other words, he was flying before he even boarded the plane.

Fear of flying takes many forms: some hate the takeoffs, others dread the landings; some fear crashing, others are troubled by turbulence. Then there is the airplane agoraphobic — the one who fears being stuck someplace where help may not be available.

For me, flying BC (before children) meant adventure — exotic vacations or weddings or warm-weather getaways in the middle of winter. I was always excited, not scared. Even the mishaps were exciting. Once, on a trip home to Detroit from Jamaica, we tried to outrun a winter storm and ended up on a Cleveland runway for 13 hours. The plane had no food, but plenty of alcohol and everyone was loaded with liquid happiness when our pilot, Captain Bobo (I'm not making that up) told us we would be taking off again and landing in New York just in time for New Year's Eve.



After I had children, I would get a little nervous when I flew alone, wondering what would happen to them if something happened to me, but the danger seemed remote. Flying with children, on the other hand, is a whole different kind of adventure and, for our family of six, prohibitively expensive. These days, when we travel en masse, it's by car.

Last week I encountered a new kind of airborne angst: putting my child on a plane by herself. She's 16 and has flown alone before, but this trip felt different. I worked hard to find a non-stop flight (we couldn't have her stranded in, say, Atlanta if her connecting flight fell through), but even that didn't completely set my mind at ease.

She was thrilled to be heading off to a creative writing residency and didn't seem nervous at all until it was time for us to part so she could go through security. Suddenly, the idea of hanging out alone for an hour or so before boarding became overwhelming and she got a little teary. This was completely unfair. Now I had to suck it up and be the calm, reassuring grown up. I hate when that happens.

I'm happy to report that she arrived without a hitch 10 minutes ahead of schedule, and called me shortly after she deplaned, chatty and cheerful in the custody of her grandparents. I have yet to recover.

Just in case you were wondering, as I often do, here is Orville Wright's concise explanation of the phenomenon of flight: "The airplane stays up because it doesn't have time to fall." Don't you feel better?

Have any fabulous travel plans this summer — flying or driving? Click here to air your qualms or share your tips.

7 comments:

Peter Rozovsky said...

There are two kinds of people: Those who find commercial flying an annoying ordeal, and those who really don't like it. I took my first flight when I was 15, and I remember the excitement of being able to say it was my first flight rather than anything about the flight itself.

Even before the current headaches caused by security and high fuel prices, flying meant cramped seats, longish waits, and commutes to and from the airport.

I've had memorable experience on trains (the best way to travel), in cars, on boats, on buses, on motorcycles, even one involving a bicycle. But planes? Sadly, I fear we have traveled far from the time when aviation stories were staples of popular magazines, or even when filmed advertisements showed happy travelers bedding down for the night in their berths on transcontinental flights.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

2KoP said...

I like trains, too. I had a friend in college who refused to fly and took the train from his home in Spokane to school in Ann Arbor a couple of times a year. Have you ever gone on one of those murder mystery train rides?

Peter Rozovsky said...

I occasionally take a long train ride over a plane trip if have the time. It's cheaper, and it's infinitely more relaxing for passengers and crew. As efficient as most airline crew members are, the myriad responsibilities and minute regulations seem to force them into a McDonald's-like pasted-on-smile kind of corporate-dictated hospitality.

Train crews, on the other hand, can be more relaxed and spontaneous. And they take their breaks in the cafe car, where one can see them relaxing and talking, rather than curtaining themselves off, out of view, the way plane crews do.

I've never taken a murder-mystery train ride. I might be tempted to skip the action and sit in my compartment reading a mystery. Have you taken such a trip?
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Crazy Horse said...

The first time I flew, I was about 12 years, 1961 or 1962. It was the day after to jets collide over LaGuardia Airport in New York. It was the biggest crash ever of 2 jets.

But the my most memorable flight was watching your face glow as you watched the plane circling over Tortola Island and the blue waters of the Caribbean.

2KoP said...

Peter, my parents did the murder mystery train trip and thought it was a lot of fun. I think it would work best if you went with friends who were willing to buy into the scenario.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd never considered such a trip until you mentioned it. Now that I think of it, such a thing could be fun.
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter Rozovsky said...

I remember the first time I saw Niagara Falls - from about 17,000 feet up out a plane's window on a clear day. It looked like a giant bath tub emptying.
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/