I have my fear of flying fairly under control these days. This is mostly thanks to exposure therapy (aka traveling for work) and those magical Gin Gins that set my mouth on fire to distract me from the turbulence. But holy hell the flight I just got off almost had me back to my crying on strangers days.
To be very honest I think I would have cried on strangers if it weren’t for the fact that I was sitting in the middle seat and the man to the left of me clearly had the flu, and the girl to the right of me was a statuesque ice queen who stole my arm rest. I was out of crying options. From the moment we took of until we were just outside Stockholm it was horrible turbulence. The sort of turbulence that is reminiscent of a roller-coaster from an illegal Disney theme park where there are ‘hidden Rickeys’ everywhere.
It was all because of some fucker called the jet stream. According to my extensive research (I googled it) jet streams are the mammoth winds that move weather systems around the globe. For a pilot it means fun times because coasting along in one like a metal albatross makes the plane go faster. For me the jet stream means spending two hours in the middle seat of the last row of the plane, frozen with fear as I imagine the fiery death in front of me.
Of course (spoiler) I didn’t die. I am currently in the back of a taxi and have just had a lovely chat with my driver who is Somali and lives in Sweden but studies Italian. I don’t understand how flying still causes such a fight or flight reflex in me. Yes I am better, and long haul is easier because I try to fly on A380s or Dreamliners, but still a smallish plane and non-stop turbulence can take me right back to square one.
Part of me wonders if it is imagination. Whereas James Bond can walk into a room and see 100 ways to kill people, I can walk into a room and see 100 ways that I will fail at life. When I fly I can’t just accept the science and statistics, I KNOW that things can go wrong (even if there is an almost 0% chance) and my brain just extrapolates from there.
It’s not going to stop me travelling of course, mostly because it is literally my job and and quite like being able to pay rent. But as I check into my hotel and try to unwind my tense mussels I will be cursing the jet stream with every creative word I know.