The Airplane Experience

August 18, 2010
The radio holds nothing for me.

I’m sitting in the stupid airplane. I hate airplanes! I don’t understand how people can like them. You sit for hours at a time next to smelly, fat strangers who could potentially give you H1N1. How do people commute this way?

What’s that song called? It goes something like this: “Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars…” I don’t know what it is but it’s playing on my headset. We’re about to take off the ground.

These lyrics are ridiculous. No, I will not say that an airplane is like a shooting star. That would be implying that I am riding a shooting star. Shooting stars are supposed to be lucky and make dreams come true and all that. Well my dream is to get off this airplane right now and certainly, without a parachute in hand, that dream is lethal.

I tried listening to the control tower telling the airplane pilot instructions, but I couldn’t do it anymore. What if one of them was a terrorist? I’m going to die on the plane for sure. I told my dad that and he just laughed at me. He told me that driving is more dangerous.

Let’s see. At least, in a car you have some control over where you go. Plus, you know all the other people in the car. You can stop at a better bathroom. Also, quite frankly, a minor car accident is going to kill fewer people than a minor plane accident.

Is there even a comparison?

Dad’s sitting smugly next to me, arms folded across his chest. My brother’s on the other side. I can’t see his face on account of the fact that it’s buried in Sky Mall magazine. He would fall in love with that magazine. I can just see their demented offspring now. Flimsy pieces of print paper with buzz cuts. Lovely.

We’re told to turn off electronic equipment. Now how am I supposed to call 911 if the plane crashes or gets hijacked? I’m screwed. I’m done for. I’m toast.

I tell my brother that and then add, “If I survive this and you don’t, where do you want to be buried?”

Daniel just snorts, takes his eyes off whatever useless “As-Seen-On-TV-product” he’s intrigued by and replies, “Dunno. Just make sure my Gamecube is buried with me.”

Huh. Typical eleven year old boy. Laughs in the face of certain death. I doubt he’s even paying much attention to me. I am only spewing the unfortunate truth.

The plane lurches and is wheeled over to the appropriate runaway. One of my hands is clenching the seat, knuckles pure white. The other is wound so tightly around my father’s wrist that it cuts off his circulation.


“Yes, Dad?”

“My hand is purple now.”

“I can’t feel my hands. Sorry.”

I now know why I’m wedged into the middle seat. It prevents my escape. And my brother likes to look out the window at 1500 feet altitude. The thought of that makes my insides squirm uncontrollably.

Down come the TVs so that we can all learn to put on our seat belts the right way. It’s weirdly humid outside today, so the incoming air creates a vapor as it enters the sides of the plane. It reminds me of dry ice. Daniel told me that it felt like a rock concert, except instead of music, you get a safety video and, if you’re lucky, an in-flight movie.

Oh, God. The safety video’s ending. I can feel my heart knocking against my ribs and the sweat coming.

I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.

The airplane starts to accelerate. It’s loud. I can barely hear the sound of my own breathing.

I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.

I’m pushed back into my seat. Everything outside the window is a blur. Why is it that Dad and Dan are so comfortable, leaning back in the seats? How can they be so relaxed while we’re speeding towards a certain doom?

I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die!

Surely, we’ll hit some kind of fence at the end of the runway or spiral into the control tower and cause panic. If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll definitely run out of gas during take-off and crash into the Chesapeake Bay. I’m going to drown. There’s no way out of here.


The plane edges forward at maximum velocity and right as we’re about three hundred feet from barbed fence, we lift off into the open blue sky. It’s cloudless today. Perfect and angelic. Certainly, we don’t look like a shooting star. People can look up and wish on the plane’s broad white underbelly. It would be no different from pretending a plane was a shooting star, after all.

We’re in the air, floating and falling until we reach 3500 feet. That’s as high as we go. The flight will only last an hour and twenty-five minutes exactly. It’s non-stop Baltimore to Chicago.

I lean back in my seat and put my hands behind my head. I relax.

Dad squeezes my knee. “See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

I just shut my eyes, recline farther back in my seat and mumble, “Piece of cake.”

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SecretNonConformist said...
Aug. 23, 2010 at 6:53 pm
I know EXACTLY how you feel because I hate airplanes too. People have no idea why but I really hate them. My reason is that I hate hights and being suspended extremely high up is not my idea of fun.
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