My mom is not a scared person. She marches right through life telling life what to do, and does not suffer those who squirm and hem and ask time-wasting questions. Pam does an impression of my mom that is spot-on perfect, but it’s also quite short because my mom speaks quickly because she has somewhere else to be. Mom isn’t afraid of life.
My mother, however, is deathly terrified of air travel.
People have irrational fears — I, for instance, live in literally CONSTANT TERROR of a) cockroaches and b) being buried alive. But the fear of flying thing really does encroach on one’s ability to live a normal life, especially when two of my mother’s three children currently reside 3,000 miles across the country. Next week, my stepfather is attending a music conference in Los Angeles, at which he is also being honored as a very smart luminary in his field. All of these elements conspired to make us inform my mother that if she didn’t come out here with him, he would have to divorce her and I would gladly act as a witness. So she’s getting on a plane. They’re flying to Vegas, spending some time conquering the nickel slots, and driving out to LA three days later. Adam and I made her a little guide to the flight, seeing as she hasn’t been on a plane since significantly before Things Have Changed. Let me know if you have anything to add, as there’s always stuff we’re forgetting.
So You Decided To Come Visit Your Children!
A User’s Guide.
Congratulations on conquering your fears! Confronting that which frightens us makes for a richer, more meaningful existence, and is often essential for living a properly socialized life on planet Earth. For example, Adam once conquered his fear by playing songs he wrote alone on stage in front of people. And dan once conquered his fear by going to the prom…with an actual girl! Still and all, our fears can be alleviated somewhat with the choice weapon of knowledge. Below, a step-by-step process to facing your upcoming air travel head on.
And remember: even though you have to pay for it, there is wine on your plane. Don’t be afraid to use it. That’s what it’s there for.
Here we go:
1) As you walk to your seat, before you take off, there is a chance that there will be a bit of steam blowing out of the vents above the seats. This is totally normal. It’s like when you’re breathing out in the cold weather and you see your breath.
2) Your seat will probably be uncomfortable. This is normal. Annoying, but normal. Luckily, the fact that you’re flying JetBlue means you’ll have a leather seat, which at least offers the charade of comfort.
3) Before you take off, while you’re sitting in your seat, you will hear some jostling and bumps in the body of the plane…this is the luggage handlers putting your bags into the plane. Be glad that they are doing this, as it means you won’t have to buy a new wardrobe once you get to Vegas.
4) When the plane pulls back from the gate, don’t hit the internal panic button just yet…you’re still just getting prepped for takeoff. Your plane will pull into a long line of planes waiting for takeoff, so it could be ten minutes until you’re in the air or thirty minutes. If it’s going to be a while, they’ll let you know what number you are in the queue. Hopefully, you’ll be too zonked out on Valium to care.
5) During the prep and safety messages that come before the flight (which you can feel free to ignore), keep a listen for the estimated flight time. Once they’re at this point in the process, they can usually estimate pretty damn closely how long the flight will be. I always like knowing this, as it lets me know not only how long we’ve been in the air, but how long we have left in the air.
6) When you’re taking off, hold your breath and count very slowly to ten. Do not exhale. Do not count quickly. Exhale on ten, at which point the scariest part of the flight will be behind you. Seriously. The plane will have to make some turns to get you facing in the right direction. Planes turn by tilting slightly to the right or left. So if you look out the window and see only sky or only ground (or if you feel a slight tilt in one direction or another), this is completely normal, and will likely be over shortly.
7) A very short while after takeoff, the landing gear (read: wheels) will retract. This means that you will hear some combination of a sliding noise and a dull thud. Again, this is totally normal.
8) When you rise to ten thousand feet, there will be a beep (or, depending on the plane, a series of beeps — maybe 3 of them). This is a signal to the flight attendants that they can tell you that it is okay to “use accepted portable electronic devices.” This is when you can break out your laptop or walkman and listen to the smooth sounds of Kenny G. Actually, don’t.
9) Even after that beep, you will still feel the plane rising and moving — again, totally normal. You will likely be rising for another 15 minutes or so.
10) If you have a seat near the wing, do not be alarmed if you see the wing (or little sections of the wing) moving. This is how the plane works. There are little flaps and pieces that may move up and down. They are supposed to do that.
11) When you’re flying and you hear a “ding” somewhere in the plane, it’s simply the “service requested” signal. All this means is that some dude in 32C wants a glass of water or a blanket.
12) Okay, turbulence. It’s such a ridiculous word. You will likely experience a little bit of it. Picture yourself driving in a car: when you’re driving on the road, you sometimes hit a series of bumps. Maybe it’s potholes Bloomberg won’t pay to have replaced. Turbulence is exactly like this. Chances are, you have a bumpier ride in your car. Point being, it’s TOTALLY NORMAL. If you look out the window, you may see yourself passing through a cloud. Now, I’ll tell you this: clouds can’t hurt you. They’re fluffy, like clouds. And once you’ve passed through whatever choppiness there is, the turbulence will go away. Turbulence is completely normal. If the seatbelt light goes on, don’t forget to…aw, never mind. You’re not going to get up.
13) Clouds cannot heard you. They’re CLOUDS.
14) If it’s raining (or even snowing lightly) when you’re leaving, by the way, don’t be alarmed. Once you take off, you’ll be above the weather line in about 2 minutes (or even less). You don’t have to worry about rain or snow when you’re above the clouds. And you certainly won’t have snow in Vegas when you land (I should hope!).
15) About 45 minutes or so before you’re scheduled to land, you’ll feel the plane start to descend — they do this slowly, so as to make you more comfortable. You may want to chew some gum on the way down. I’ve flown into Vegas about six times, and it’s a nice airport to fly into because there’s nothing around it to make you have to do lots of fancy turns to land.
16) For whatever reason, landing is the part the bothers me least. You’ll feel the landing gear come back out, and you’ll touch down on the ground. Pilots are very well-trained. Then you’ll be in Vegas, where you can win lots of money so you can treat us to many fancy dinners once you get here.