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The 'Ahem' Glamour of Air Travel

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I do not like planes.

I do not like them in the air,

I do not like them on the ground.

I do not like them anywhere,

But how else can I get around? (with apologies to Dr. Seuss).

I used to be afraid of flying. On my honeymoon, my husband, who worked in the aerospace industry at the time, had to gently talk me through the take-off and landing as I gulped vodka tonics, my hand gripping his arm for dear life. Now we always book seats across the aisle from each other, and he kindly holds my hand as we ascend, before he promptly falls asleep, and as we land, just as he wakes up.

I cannot sleep on planes. Not for very long, anyway.

I'm not so frightened of flying anymore. What can be scary at times is the utter indignity of it all. First you park -- miles away -- and take a shuttle to the terminal. Then the lines -- checking bags, ticketing and security. The awkwardness of taking off your shoes and emptying your bag to be screened (a necessary thing). Next comes boarding, the passengers crowding around, waiting for their group to be called (I am never in the first group -- ever). Some airlines board from the window out to the aisle, some board from back to front. Some board first class, families with kids, priority, super priority and double-secret priority before getting to the regular folks like me. Everyone is praying for a spot in the overhead bins for their carry-on luggage, hoping for a seat mate who isn't too strange, or reeking or perfume or drinking too much...

Then we board. Oh, what fun. Shuffle, shuffle, schlepping your bag behind you. The long walk back to steerage -- I mean coach. On a recent flight, my reading light was broken -- a very bad thing. Waking him gently, I asked my ever-accommodating husband to switch seats with me. After we were settled (now I was in a middle seat -- another form of torture) he of course fell right back to sleep again. How does he do that?

Settled in, ready for the flight, I try to relax, with the help of a little medication. I read through the entire flight -- I don't like watching movies on a four-inch screen. I'm irritated by the slightest push or pull on my seat. Loud talkers make me nuts. I try very hard to keep my irritation to myself. If the plane goes down, I don't want anyone to be annoyed with me and maybe not help me with my flotation device.

I hate turbulence. No matter how many times my husband tells me it's perfectly normal (since he used to build them, I believe everything he says about planes), I go into a little bit of a panic when the bumps start. I squeeze his hand for dear life, but he sleeps through it all.

Then after we land, it's more waiting as we taxi to the gate and begin to exit the aircraft. Usually, everyone is civilized -- we are kind of trapped, after all -- and eventually we are off the plane. After hours of being confined in a metal cylinder together, we all disperse, continuing our journey to wherever, and this fascinates me. I want to know where everyone is headed, why we all shared that trip, what awaits the others at the curb. Of course I'll never know these things -- I rarely talk to anyone during a flight. I'm leery of getting stuck in a conversation with someone who is boring, annoying or worse. My husband talks to everyone -- until he falls asleep.

Again, how in the world does he do that?

Once off the plane, we're on our own again, our destinations now as varied as we are. We're free to move about the cabin, the terminal, the world. We are no longer captive. Any turbulence at this point is in our minds -- or mine, anyway.