THE BLOG
07/07/2010 12:23 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Fear of Flying: Ruminating on Air Travel

I hate flying. No, it's not the frustrating obstacle course of shoe removal, sweeps and patdowns, oppressive crowds, interminable queues, perspiratory delays and airplane food (or lack of it) that makes every trip a challenge. (Though all of the above are worthy reasons to dread air travel.) No, for me, it's the loss of control that accompanies my first footsteps into the claustrophobic cylinder that my fervid imagination assumes will be my coffin. For the next however-many hours, my life is out of my hands -- and I can no longer find refuge in my delusion that my health and safety are 100 percent under my control.

A glass of wine or a prescribed tablet of alprazolam helps take the edge off, at least until the turbulence approaches 6.9 Richter. But, for me, the best in-flight therapy is a window seat, where I can press my nose to the glass and, in my mind, "help the pilot fly the plane." Even turbulence seems less threatening when I gaze out at the awe-inspiring azure sky and blanket of puffy clouds below and revel in the opportunity to view a perspective that was beyond Icarus' grasp.

Unfortunately, that's about the time the tap on my shoulder from a flight attendant shakes me out of my reverie. "Could you please close the shade, the movie's coming on." Say what? You actually want me to pull away from the calming panorama outside this careening metal cylinder, and turn to watch an, at best, mediocre DVD (sorry, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson), in a pod-like smothering environment where every bounce is magnified by the artificial darkness? Really? Have none of you ever heard of Netflix? If I wanted to watch Steve Carell, I'd have stayed home and caught up on my unscreened DVR stores of The Office.

"But people also want to sleep." Of course, I'm envious -- it's a wonderful way to pass away the interminable hours. I myself would love to have general anesthesia as I step on the plane and wake up rested and refreshed at my destination -- which is hopefully a resort paradise, and not the literal one. But, my window -- my lifeline -- certainly shouldn't disturb those wise patrons who have had the foresight to purchase a mask to dim the slivers of light, okay? Pulling down that shade may help a few passengers sleep, but certainly my gasps every time the jet hits an air pocket and I'm convinced we're plummeting to Earth aren't conducive to shut-eye either.

Seriously, flying in coach is a shared experience, and courtesy and consideration for our fellow prisoners is important. But my query seems reasonable in that regard. Flight is still, in a spiritual way, a miracle. Feel free to sleep, entertain yourself with a book (what's that?) or a movie, chat with neighbors, savor the tasty packaged fare, etc. But, please don't ask me to give up the essence of flight -- the ability to gaze beyond the confines of the plane towards the horizon and pass the difficult hours with a soothing admiration of the wonder of seeing our Earth from the heavens. Not for Cameron Diaz and Vince Vaughn, okay?