It’s Memoir Monday, everyone, so if you’d like to play along, go visit my pal Travis over at I Like to Fish and link up!
Like Erica Jong, I have a Fear of Flying. Only mine doesn’t have anything to do with zippers, sex, or the voyage of self-discovery. Maybe Ms. Jong would disagree. At any rate, the first line of her novel reads:
Coincidentally, my tale today revolves around my first, last, and only time aboard a Pan Am flight circa 1983 (I was seven years old). I was with my Gramma Frances and we were flying from New Orleans to Houston, which happens to be a quick 50-ish minute flight.
When we boarded, I was given a fun, fancy packet containing a coloring book, crayons, stickers, and even a pin with wings on it. All featured the Pan Am logo, of course, and I kept the coloring book for years afterwards, though I’m not sure exactly why.
We had to fly through a bad thunderstorm. Maybe we hit an air pocket. Maybe lightning struck our plane. I’ll never know. All I remember is that suddenly we began bobbing around violently and then we plummeted at least 1,000 feet. A gaggle of teenaged girls traveling together all screamed simultaneously. The overhead compartments opened and the oxygen masks fell into our faces, the tubes hanging and writhing like snakes. Intensifying our fears, the lights in the plane went out, plunging us into darkness. The plane bucked and jumped, I screamed and cried. Gramma remained pretty calm (or she was trying for my benefit), and I remember her holding me tightly and telling me we were going to be fine.
And then as abruptly as it had all started, it stopped. The plane leveled out. The lights clicked back on. The pilot apologized for the turbulence, and said the oxygen masks wouldn’t be necessary.
But the damage had already been done. To this day at the age of 33, I am still a Nervous Nelly when it comes to flying. I’ve made great strides in recent years (mostly because I know I need to show a brave face for my children and not pass my fear along), but every now and again there’s a flight that will reduce me to sniveling, snorting, and shaking, gripping my armrests until my knuckles are white. Takeoffs and landings don’t really bother me. If I can see the ground with its buildings, streets, grass, etc., I am pretty calm. But I despise being in the clouds where I can’t see anything. I loathe turbulence. And if the fasten seatbelt sign is on, I’m on high alert.
I anxiously await the day when it will inevitably happen all over again, like it did in 1983.
What are you afraid of? Did something particular happen to trigger it? How old were you? If you have conquered your fear, how did you do so?