Weekend Wanderer: I’m Afraid to Fly

weekend wanderer

I’m flying this week.

I’m not afraid to fly. I actually love to fly. It feels cosmopolitan and cultured. And who doesn’t relish the inherent promise of exploring a new place?

So I’m not afraid to fly. But I am terribly afraid to crash.

Most of the time, I’m fine. But when I’m awake at two in the morning, fretting because I can hear the cavities blooming in my teen’s unbrushed teeth, or because a skink lives under my front step, or because I forgot to flip the laundry, I add plane crashes to my list of worries.

I understand the safety profile of flying. I mean, please. I am a connoisseur of airplane crashes. And how to survive them. I absorbed the lessons in Ben Sherwood’s The Survivor’s Club. It’s why you’ll never see me board a plane in anything but sneakers.

You have to be prepared to run.

I’ve seen the Netflix documentary Downfall. I’ve seen Sully. I’ve seen La Bamba. And, thanks to my horror movie-loving teen, I’ve seen Final Destination about a dozen times.

And thanks to Final Destination, I can’t listen to John Denver for about a week before I travel. Which is a shame because Thank God I’m A Country Boy is just about the best song ever.

Another thing — I need to know why Good Morning America’s aviation expert isn’t ever in the studio. My husband maintains his segments simply don’t warrant an in-person visit. But I think he doesn’t fly. So why doesn’t he fly? What does he know that we don’t? And can he hurry up and share it already?

Takeoff and landing are my worst moments. I don’t know why. We’re closer to the ground. Doesn’t that increase survivability? Clearly, my fears are not acquainted with rationality. They’re like a toddler, running around screaming for no apparent reason.

The universe, ever the humorous one, got me good with this trip. Did you know there are no direct flights from Philadelphia to Missoula, Mont.? Did you know it takes not two but three different flights to get to Big Sky country?


Over the course of five days, I will white-knuckle my way through six takeoffs and landings. Six. I mean, why not just cover me in snakes and call it a day?

Travel + Leisure suggests, among other things, occupying a seat that alleviates your fears. Well, unless that seat is in my car for the 33-hour drive to Missoula, I will be afraid.

One-in-114 chance of dying in my car. One-in-9,821 chance of dying in a plane. Why is a car more appealing? Because I can control it. That’s really the crux of my problem, right? Loss of control?

Also, cars are closer to the ground. If there’s a wreck, I can just hop out. Can’t exactly do that with a mid-air in-flight disaster.

In ”The Completely Correct Guide to Reclining in an Airplane” from The Washington Post, the author gives a series of recommendations on the moments it is acceptable to recline your seat.

Let me tell you, it’s never acceptable to recline your seat. You have to be ready to go. Escape. Bolt. Watch your download of Bridgerton. Read your copy of The Flight Attendant. But always, always, keep one eye on the actual flight attendants. If they look nervous, you clearly have some more worrying to do.

You should also keep an eye on the map indicating where your flight is in the world. Just so you know how close you are to terra firma. Or, if you’re flying internationally, the spot where the Titanic sank. That’s got to be some kind of Bermuda Triangle, right? Clear that, and you’re practically home free.

Ugh. I thought I’d feel better getting this out on paper, that I’d see myself through your eyes. That you’d tell me to relax. That, if I’m doing my math correctly, I’m more likely to die from a snake bite than a plane crash.

Well, I’ve also seen Snakes on a Plane. And snakes stow away on planes all the time. So it’s entirely possible for both to happen. At the same time.

Oh yeah. I definitely feel worse. I guess I should just be grateful the Snake River skirts Montana but never enters it. That would be my undoing.

By the time you read this, I’ll be less than 72 hours away from my flight. Next week’s column might get published posthumously.

To paraphrase Billy Zane in Titanic, my column could be worth a lot more by that morning.

Well. Like John Denver says, I never was one of them money-hungry fools. I’ll take the 9,820 chance of survival over the posthumous riches.

See you in two weeks.


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