Neurotica: Freaking on a jet plane

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man flying

I wish people would make sense when it comes to flying.

Do they not comprehend their peril?

It must be denial. Why else would humans stay calm at altitudes sure to dissolve a bald eagle?

Indeed, machine-assisted levitation is so gruesomely, horrifyingly, extravagantly unnatural that people’s nonchalance at 35,000 feet astounds me.

For example, just this week I read that two jets nearly collided over the Great Australian Bight, a plane was evacuated when a snake commandeered the passenger cabin, and another plane had to slam on its brakes at take-off because another plane was landing. On the same runway.

I can confidently say that stratospheric commuting is my least favourite travel option. I think I’m about to die every time the tea-trolley wobbles, the plane changes direction, or a flight attendant frowns.

I also fear:

  • boarding;
  • take-off;
  • landing;
  • ascent;
  • descent;
  • water below;
  • changes in engine noise;
  • air pockets;
  • the captain taking a toilet break – I hate it that he or she is human. I want them to be super-beings with the ability to control time and space and their bladder;
  • sitting close to strangers; and
  • disembarking.

I’m convinced everyone’s serenity is false so I asked several level-headed people of my acquaintance if they fear plane travel. I have documented their responses (and mine in brackets) as follows:

“I trust the technology.” (Yes, but do you trust the people operating it?)

“Even if all the engines fail the plane would still be able to glide.” (Are you kidding me?)

“It’s much safer than car travel.” (Then why do I feel safer in my car?)

“Airlines spend heaps keeping their engines in good condition. They’d go broke if they didn’t.” (Lots of airlines go broke.)

“I like turbulence.” (Are you truly, really, deeply serious? Please look me straight in the eye when you answer this.)

“I never think about it.” (Please note, all but one of the respondents said this. What are you people thinking?)

It seems no-one’s worried but me.

“What are you scared of?’ one of these lunatics asked me.

“Death,” I said.

She looked at me like my hair was on fire.

Suddenly I’m the nut. How did it come to this?

Maybe it’s time to deal with my plane phobia. But it’s hard because I understand that flying violates at least four basic biological and psychological human requirements.

The four basic biological and psychological human requirements I can’t see a way around:

One: Land

Reason: Soft mammalian exteriors. Breakable interiors. No wings.

Complications arising from violation of Basic Requirement One: Thoracic aortic rupture, massive brainstem injuries, cardiac malfunction, high spinal chord transections, complete deoxydisation (i.e., death).

Very occasional exceptions: Three WW2 pilots survived falls from 20,000 feet. Flight attendant Vesna Vuloviae survived a plummet from 33,330 feet, still strapped in her seat.

Two: Oxygen.

Reason: Lungs, brain, and heart need it to keep body alive.

Exception: Spinoloricus Cinzia. Lives 3.5 km underwater on bed of Mediterranean Sea. Looks like a jellyfish wrapped in shell. Doesn’t count as lives underwater and has no need for plane travel.

Complications arising from violation of Basic Requirement Two: Hypoxia, unconsciousness, brain damage, death.

Three: Personal space. Three types – intimate, social, public. All three violated simultaneously in passenger cabin.

Reason: Deeply ingrained evolutionary adaption. Being aware of others in vicinity allows us to size up surroundings and escape danger.

Exception: Violation of intimate and social space tolerated for short periods only – such as a crowded train, shaking hands, or waiting at a bus stop.

Complications arising from violation of Basic Requirement Three: Stress, anxiety, murderous rage, high blood pressure, general contempt for humanity.

Four: Minimal CO2 exposure.

Reason: Excess CO2 is bad for the body. Inefficient air flow in aircraft causes CO2 to build. Also, we’re all getting fatter and fat people release more CO2.

Exception: Plane full of skinny people.

Complications arising from violation of Basic Requirement Four: Disorientation, hand flapping, panic, convulsions, loss of consciousness, death.

It looks impossible, but I must deal with these fears.

I fly to Perth tomorrow.

Author: Claire Bell
Claire Bell is the health and wellbeing editor of Midlifexpress. She is the author of Stone Age Secrets for Mind and Body and Comma Magic. Print and ebooks available on Amazon.

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