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Dec 2, 2012

Airplanes: Should I be a White Knuckle Traveler? Even The NYT has an opinions!

I had never been a white knuckle traveler. I have flown a lot during the last 30 years of my life but I just didn't know enough about airplanes or pilots to be really frightened. I would have liked to have kept it that way. I really didn't even want to think about the "white knuckled" part. Then I read a book on the airplane going to Mexico called Outliers by Malcomb Gladwell. Outlier is "...a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience." One whole section was about plane crashes. I didn't want to know but I just kept on reading. Things have changed in my life. I don't want to think about it. When I am on an airplane, nothing should be outside the normal experience. 

Then I also read this article in the New York Times. Whew, I thought I was the only one:
The aircraft was indeed an interesting one. One of the overhead baggage compartments was held together with masking tape. Halfway across the Atlantic you decided to turn Flight 121 back because your altimeter wasn’t working.
You are to blame for this post...everyone loves the idea of a possible horror story. Just for your information this is not one. But here goes anyway.
 (Available on Amazon:Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell)

Should I be afraid?
There have been occasions when I have asked if I should have been scared out of my socks. For example, should I have paid attention when we experienced the following?
  • Any cab ride in the Far East (Vietnam, Thailand, China, Philippines)
  • Dishonest tuk tuk drivers (Thailand)
  • Broken nuclear reactors (Three Mile Island)
  • Blackouts (Boston)
  • Lost students on tour (Lost at UN, found in a bar)
  • Gypsy thieves (stolen wallet/passport Spain)
  • War (Spanish people protest Iraq)
  • Planes held together with duct tape on the inside (Shanghai to Hanoi)
  • A lost child (Spokane, WA. Expo)
  • Crossed the street in Manila or Hanoi...yikes! 
The list goes on but I just want you to get a feel for what it is like to travel with us.

We do not fight these things but have learned to simply expect the unexpected. I would not have anything to talk about if everything went smoothly. Who wants to hear about the perfect trip? I can make you go to sleep by singing.

Should I be afraid? Well, I read that Gladwell's book on an airplane and I can't go back.

Stay at home?
My good friend says that my husband and I should not be allowed to leave the house. The world is not ready for us to travel. She may be right. Even the last trip had it's scary moments.

When we came home from Cancun last weekend the pilots seemed (to me) to be taking the scenic route. This was after I had finished the book, talked about the book and had time to process the book. It occurred to me that the people flying the plane may have been playing video games. We would be flying along and suddenly we would change direction. I don't believe I have ever had that happen.

When we boarded the plane in Phoenix, we were on the same plane that we had flown from Portland to Phoenix on at the beginning of our trip. The landing gear sounded like a barking dog. I had not finished reading the book so I didn't think much about it at the time. But coming home was another thing. The landing approach coming into Portland was unnerving. I finally decided the wind was blowing aloft. The pilot was never heard from the whole trip and I wondered if he even existed. And that fool landing gear just kept on barking. I had read Gladwell's book. NOW I was scared. For the first time I was scared!

It really is Malcomb Gladwell's fault!

Do I like being afraid?
No, I don't, not at all. I want you to know that I have never been white water rafting or deep sea diving or rock climbing nor have I jumped out of an airplane. I am not that kind of adventure junky. I am unwilling on occasion and even stubborn about getting myself in danger of any kind. I didn't like going fishing on a rickety boat in Mexico. But, it seems to me, I am just going along, minding my own business and stuff finds me. What is a person going to do?

In my particular case, the person is going to take the ride and write about it...if she gets home. Tell my children I love them if I don't come back. And I am going to be very careful about what I read.

Still, life goes on.

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  • Note: Leave a comment...should I stay at home?
  • Tweet the post up...just because.
  • Take a look at the books on Amazon.


This guy should have been afraid!

Another wonderful book by Gladwell...I love them!

2 comments :

  1. Well, I'm afraid I'm the wrong person to ask, because I'm a white knuckle flyer myself. I've attended lectures on why flying is actually incredibly safe, I've undergone self hypnosis, and I've stayed away from books like Gladwell's (I even had to skip the part of your post that dealt with it!), all in an attempt to get over this irrational fear. Have they worked? No, not really I'm afraid.

    Like you, I love to travel, and I'm determined not to let my anxieties rob me of that. My solution at this point has been to get anti-anxiety pills from my doctor. Because I only take them when I fly, they work very well, putting me to sleep for a solid four to five hours, at which point I awaken still relaxed enough to get through the rest of the flight.

    So while you are far from alone on this, no, you should absolutely not give in and stay at home.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've traveled on a wooden plane with screw in portholes to Vietnam. I was on a first Chinese pilot flight of a brand new Boieing. Yet, it was a flight returning from Hawaii when we hit a flock of birds that did me in.
    Now I get on the plane, six or more times a year, say a good Act of Contrition and promptly fall asleep. I don't know how I do it. I guess God gives me that peace.
    I hate to fly, but I cannot drive from Kansas to Phoenix to Maryland to Alabama. Flight is the only way to go....

    ReplyDelete

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