Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Learning about myself

I dislike flying. I never knew that about myself until this last flight to Goleta. I'm not afraid of flying. I'm not worried that we will crash. I just dislike the experience and I like it less and less.

I always wanted to be the kind of person who enjoys flying. Once upon a time, I had a very mild sense of superiority at the ability to enjoy a flight. No longer. The pieces fit together too well and I must admit to my mild shame that I am coming to hate flying.

While waiting in a standing-room only holding area in Lagos while every passenger on a very full flight to Houston was being frisked again before we could board the plane, it all fell into place:

  • The way I can't sleep the night before
  • The way my "stomach" is angry from the time I reach my first gate until I get off the last plane
  • The way every layover with kids in tow sends me over the top in stress
  • The way very few things in Nigeria could upset my equilibrium, but just the thought of trying to make it through US customs and security to catch a 1 hour layover triggered my fight-or-flight mechanisms WEEKS in advance
  • My growing sense that TSA is all things evil and sadistic
I can handle waiting in a Nigerian airport with no electricity for 3 hours, wondering when my plane will leave. No problem. But forcing myself to be on someone else's tight schedule, sensing if I don't meet their every requirement they won't even let me get home and I'll need to spend yet another sleepless night in their airports ....

I feel claustrophic. I realized just before this last flight that I actually have more legroom than I do in most cars, but I feel far less confined in a car. I've volunteered to drive to conferences before instead of fly, claiming it would be cheaper but really because I'd MUCH rather drive.

Being surrounded by complete strangers in too little space with too many expectations (you're supposed to talk and be friendly - you're supposed to leave people alone completely even though your hips are rubbing the entire flight - you're supposed to start missionary conversations - you're supposed to get work done) and not enough guidance is stressful. It would be helpful if you could pick up an armband on your way in, with different colors signaling if you would like to be talkative or silent. 

Taking care of children is multiple times more stressful: there's far more stuff to watch (and lose!), keeping the kids confined and the constant pressure of fearing the angry looks from other passengers when my children reveal that they are, in fact, alive and possess the wondrous gift of speech, keeping not myself but them entertained the entire flights, wondering if they are going to sleep or not.

I have lost three hats, a sweater, several disposable books, and the cross-stitch I've been working on for 16 years on various flights. The airlines are NO help whatsoever in recovering the property, even if I realize it two feet off the plane.

I can only sleep on a flight if Joy is there, which does nothing to brighten her day. 

Even though I drink at every opportunity, get multiple drinks when the stewards pass, and go back to the kitchen for bottles of water, I still spend the next several days parched and dehydrated with cracking lips.

But we do like to end this blog on happy notes. Let me try.

Business class is nice because it gives me the room to work. Trying to get work done in coach is terrible, especially if my friend in the front seat decides to lean back. My leaning back doesn't help. And I still can't sleep even stretched out. But it sure is nice to have plenty of room to work and the extra attention and drinks help.

Catching up on my action movies is nice. Captain America and Iron Man made the last trip much better (while Prince slept next to me). The first Winnie the Pooh movie left something to be desired, though. Prince meanwhile fell asleep during Ratatouille and then watched Dumbo, which he enjoyed. But this only works if we each have our individual set. Whenever they pick a movie for the entire plane, it's probably one I have at best no interest in seeing and at worst need to actively avoid watching parts of, which is a terrible thing traveling with small children. End on a positive note, right. But catching up on my action movies is nice.