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Turbulence

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When I was sixteen years old my family and I took a family vacation to England. My family had always loved traveling; seeing new things, taking ourselves out of our normal environment, paying an hourly wage for a cold beverage. But the previous year on a flight to Florida something changed; we flew around a lightning storm. Everyone in the plane craned their necks and jockeyed for position to see the storm as we glided by it. The experience of looking at lightning from the side was interesting to me. Rather than seeing it streak across the horizon for a moment, I saw it shoot out from the cloud and race towards the ground like a stray bullet. My sister, however, was horrified by the experience. “I didn’t need to see that,” She whispered, her face paled as she sat back down and tightened her seatbelt as far as it would go.

A year later I found myself on another plane, having fallen into a relatively peaceful sleep. It was a treat for me, the flight to Heathrow International was to be eight hours long and I usually have trouble falling asleep on planes. So, justifiably, I was irritated when I was brought from my slumber by my sister. At this point she had developed a full-blown phobia of flying. So when the turbulence reached a significant intensity she decided she needed to wake me up.

“Wake up,” She hissed, gripping my right shoulder and giving it a rough shake.

“What? I asked groggily, annoyance laced into my voice.

“There’s turbulence,” She whispered, her usual big blue eyes looking almost comically large – ready to pop out at any moment. She was shaking with terror.

I debated how to handle the situation. I could look out the window and wonder aloud why the engine was on fire. I could give her a curt insult and go back to sleep. Or I could be nice and explain that everything was completely normal and under control.

I eventually decided upon the latter option and stayed up with her. I talked with her about what she wanted to see in London, made up statistics about the safety of flying, made fun of her irrational fear, anything I could think of to keep her occupied. The moment we touched down to Earth again she calmed down, taking a deep breath and releasing it shakily. “I’m never flying again,” She declared as we pulled into the gate. Of course, we were able to cajole her onto the plane mere days after the incident for the flight home.
Since her near nervous breakdown on the last flight, my sister has a new and improved technique for handling her fears in an adult fashion. About a half-hour prior to take-off she will pop a Xanax and by the time the peanuts are being handed out she’s smiling serenely, deep in a medicated coma.





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