What I Think About on Airplanes

Note: This blog was written at approximately 8:51 p.m. central time while flying from Houston Hobby Airport to New York LaGuardia

I always have this sneaking suspicion that I’m going to die on an airplane. 

I’m sorry to be morose, because it is not my intention to write a sad, twisted, macabre post, but that just might be what comes out here. 

Let me first preface all this buffoonery by telling you that I used to be a great flyer. (Is it flier or flyer? Being the grammar nazi that I am, I should probably know this.) When I was younger, my family and I would take the occasional vacation where we would fly to various locations. I even flew to Chicago by myself at age 10 to visit my friend, Jessica. 

However, in my 20s, I developed a pretty severe case of flight anxiety. Back when I was taking pills to control my anxiety disorder, (post death of my mother) I could just pop a generic Ativan and go comatose until we landed. 

I’ve also developed the awful habit of becoming a “clap-lander,” AKA that obnoxious person who claps whenever the plane touches solid ground. (I know. Please roll your eyes into the back of your head. I think clap-landers might be on par with the annoyingness of negligent parents of small children on airplanes. No? Ok. Good.)

Let me also tell you that we are currently experiencing a fair amount of turbulence. The pilot has notified us that he is attempting to find a better altitude in order to “smooth out the ride,” but every dip we take just makes me think that I will plummet to my untimely death. 

My brother and I actually had a conversation over brunch the other day about how truly safe flying is compared to any other type of travel. My brother, being the brilliant scientist that he is explained that he had an in-depth conversation with a pilot who had flown for 38 years.

(Side Note: only one child could receive the science/math genes in the family, and it happened to be gifted to him. I ended up with the leftover creative, overly-talkative, emotional genes. At least these help me be a funny, witty writer? Yes?)

Anyway, back to this pilot. So, essentially the engineers, mechanics, scientists, pilots, and everyone else involved in either flying the plane or constructing it, is a genius and that there are such strenuous tests put on these pieces of machinery, (not to mention the mind-boggling skill assessments of the people who fly them,) that planes hardly ever crash. 

That being said, I’m still a bad flier (I still can’t fucking figure this out. Is it flyer or flier?? Dammit for not having access to Google to make me appear smarter than I really am) 

*Addendum: Grammar Girl cleared it up a bit for me. If you care to, click on this link: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/flier-or-flyer

Begin Side Note:

(A side note before we get to to that side note: There are going to be lots of “side notes” in this post because I’m desperately trying to put my irrational anxiety into constructive form as we speak).

*Side Note continued: I just went to the bathroom. And here are some thoughts I had:

  1. Why is it that I always try to follow the rules, and not line up like an ass hole outside of the aircraft lavatory?? Because, without fail, at the exact moment I make that decision, a lady who has to take a gigantic shit ALWAYS gets up and steals my spot that I was holding silently in my mind because I wanted to play by the rules the flight attendants gave to me??
  2. Wow… this lady really is taking a gigantic shit based on the time she is spending in there. Now I REALLY feel like an ass hole standing here next to the flight attendants, them gazing at me thinking, “She obviously didn’t listen to us when we said not to line up outside the lavatory.” 
    1. Male Flight Attendant: Can I help you with something?
    2. Shannon: I’m so sorry. I was just waiting for the light to go off and someone jumped in front of me in my imaginary line that I made up in my head. I just wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again. 
    3. Male Flight Attendant (Looking confused): Okay. Don’t worry. 
  3. Now that that terribly awkward moment passed, I decided to stare at my surroundings (remember, there is a lady taking an Earth-shattering shit in there) and notice this little, teeny rearview-type mirror hanging above me. After staring at myself for a few minutes (remember, we have lots of minutes here) I think that I look devastatingly cute, but extremely weird. Now, you may be asking yourself how these two idea can coexist. Well, I’ll tell you. I’m currently wearing black yoga capris, a Ghostbusters crew neck sweatshirt with the sleeves rolled up, a hippie bandana on my head, my favorite skull scarf around my neck and black combat boots that don’t come quite high enough, so my unshaved legs are peeking out just the tiniest bit. But, to offset this mess of an ensemble, I think to myself, “Shan, you look like a true New Yorker! Someone who doesn’t give a shit about what other people think and is confident in her weird, not-put-together style at the moment.” Then I sigh and look down at the floor, because I have been standing here for what feels like eternity, waiting for this mysterious woman to stop shitting. This prompts me to have a thought. 
  4. “Gee! I hope someday someone will love me enough not to care that I have big thick legs that kind of bow into each other like some strange oversize, chubby baby legs.” And then all my good thoughts about my quirkiness disappear. 
  5. Lastly, I think about how dreadful it’s going to be as I enter the bathroom as the lady in front of me (SURPRISE!) did indeed take a “I’m-gonna-drop-my-10-oversized-children-off-at-the-pool” shit. )

End Side Note. 

Back to my story: 

So during this bout of turbulence we had earlier, I jammed my pair of cheap ear buds into my ears, cranked up my newly-purchased Foo Fighters album (FYI: Sonic Highways, both the album and show are fantastic) and started reading Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please. 

Her book is lovely thus far, and one part in particular that called out to me was when she had her parents write the story of her birth. Amy’s mother was very detailed, talking about each step in her labor, while Amy’s father was not in the room during labor (it was the 70s) and his portion was short and concise about how excited he was to be a father. After both parents’ excerpts, Amy places a few pages for the reader to have their parents write down the story of their own births. 

At at moment I wanted to cry. (The operative word here being “wanted.”) 

Why is this so important?

BECAUSE I WANTED TO CRY, DAMMIT! And because I never got the story of my birth from my mother, which I knew would be similar to Mrs. Poehler: detailed and touched with the love that only a mother can give. Sure, I can still ask my dad about my labor, but the sadness I felt the moment I realized that I could not pick up the phone after this flight (pending that I don’t plummet to my death) was profound. 

A funny thing happened to me after my mom died. At first, I couldn’t stop crying. Everything would make me cry. I cried watching tv, if a professor told me that I got an A minus instead of an A on a project, if I didn’t receive a goodnight text from my boyfriend. (You get the idea). And then there was the SOBBING: i.e. when I would think about my mother and the life I would have to keep living without her. Then came the ugliness of depression, anxiety, therapy and corrective medication. 

Then all the sudden it stopped. I stopped crying. I stopped sobbing. I didn’t need therapy or pills or nights where I would drink myself stupid and look at pictures of my mom, silently cursing whatever god actually exists in this great big universe. 

It is very rare that I cry anymore. The last time I cried was fairly recently, but in all fairness, I was four drinks in, and saw my ex boyfriend AKA the man I thought I was going to marry for a good three years of my existence. 

Sometimes, not being the waterworks that I used to be is nice. But in that moment when I looked at the blank pages of Amy’s book, I wanted to cry so badly, I started to forget about the turbulence and focused on how frustrated I was that my heart would not let me release the tension it so desperately wanted to let out of it. 

And then I started thinking, how would Ro have told the story of my birth? Do you tell the story of a birth, similar to the way we recite eulogies? You know, where the eulogizer (Or as Zoolanger calls it, a “You-Google-Izer”) highlights all the best parts of a person’s life and leaves out the hairy details. No, Ro wouldn’t do that. Ro would make sure to tell every nitty-gritty detail of my birth, because she (like her daughter) loved to tell stories with so many ancillary details, that the listener sometimes forgets the original point of the story. 

Sound familiar?? 🙂 

Then I started thinking about Ro’s death. And how a doctor give her a time frame of how long she had left in her human body. What is that like? What is it like to be told that you have a quantifiable amount of moments left in your existence? 

For instance: If there was a clairvoyant here on my plane and he/she told me that this plane would crash tonight, would I become paralyzed with fear, or would I pick out the cutest boy on the plane, join the mile-high club and drink all the alcohol shooters and go out with a bang? (Ha ha! See what I did there??? Sorry Dad, if you’re reading this portion.) 

My mom sure didn’t stop living her life when she was given time. In fact, she tried so hard to stay alive that she not only lived a few weeks past when the doctors said she would, but some days her blood counts were so low, it was a kind of medical miracle that she was physically standing.

But back to why I can’t cry. 

I’m worried that I’ve become a bit hardened. Or maybe it’s just that once you’ve already had the worst day of your life (i.e. the day my mother died) and everything else is shifted in relativity. I can’t tell. 

But I can tell you something, after reading the first half of Amy’s book tonight, (I’m a fast reader) I feel like I’m going to try to live my life like my plane is crashing. Not to say that I don’t already attempt to live life to the fullest, but I’m just going to try a little harder. I’m going to try a little harder to tear away the layers that have accumulated on top of my heart. (As one of my favorite animated characters once told me, “Ogres are like onions.)

And once I peel away these layers, my heart might become a tender and fresh again. Of course there is always the fear that I will yet again be vulnerable to all the trials and tribulations that go along with being an emotional person, but I think I might be a better person for it. 

So now that I’ve gone ahead and spilled my innards all over this post, like I tend to do from time to time, I feel as though I have run out of words. 

Hopefully if this plane does, indeed crash, one of my family members will recover my laptop and open the “notes” application where I keep my list of passwords, my log of all the background/stand jobs I’ve worked on, and tidbits of unfinished songs/blog posts, and see that that there is one completed, thoughtful, kind-of-sad-but-in-a-funny-way blog post that the world simply MUST see. (Finish run-on sentence)

And that’s all I have to say about that. 


Shan Babe 


2 thoughts on “What I Think About on Airplanes

  1. I love how I read this as I travel. We share similar views on flying. It has to do with control. Not having it. We’re giving our life into the pilot, driver, or machine.

    I always believe in the power of prayer (and other things ;-). I can’t accept if it’s our time, then it’s our time. We have so much to do and to live for!

    Thanks for bearing your beautiful soul.

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