I believed that it was going to be the best summer vacation of my life. We were taking a painstakingly long, direct flight to Oahu, Hawaii. We were going to celebrate my eighth birthday in the most relaxing place in the United States! My serene state of mind came to an abrupt halt, however, when I left my seat to use the airplane lavatory.
We were roughly four hours into the uneventful flight. Everyone has been in the situation – whether on an airplane or not – when you just have to use the restroom. In my defense, I had been “holding it” for over two hours. The “fasten seat belt” sign was shining bright in my face, mocking me. Out of necessity, I disobeyed the law of the sign, unfastened my seat belt, and scurried to the back of the plane, eager to beat any other passenger who may have been in my predicament.
I had just shut myself into the claustrophobic bathroom when the captain took over the intercom, and in the trademark Chuck-Yeager-persona, said: “This is your captain speaking. We’ll be hitting some slight turbulence. Anyone who is not in their seat, please return and fasten your seat belt.”
This should be fun, I thought. Wish they put seat belts in the bathrooms.
Less than a minute after the warning, which did not sound dire, the plane began to shake. I panicked. I frantically washed my hands and attempted to unlock the bathroom door, which seemed to have turned into a handheld labyrinth. My stomach churned and my body was tossed against the door. Slight turbulence, yeah, right.
All of a sudden, the lights flickered, and a crack echoed through the cabin. The consistent blaring white noise of the plane’s engines stopped, and in that instant we were suspended 35,000 feet in the air in a powerless 747. Then the descent began – against our will, that is.
We had been struck by lightning and plummeted 2,000 feet down. Admittedly, it was better than any roller coaster I had ever been on. I don’t believe my stomach had ever jumped into my throat before that moment.
On the flip side, I was hoisted in the air and thrown around the lavatory, hitting my back on the walls and my head on the ceiling. I was terrified, and my use of the facilities had been interrupted by the anarchy, so I was left scared and uncomfortable.
Luckily, the plane’s engines revived themselves, and we went on with our trip. We made it to Hawaii, and I did have the vacation of my life. It was almost jeopardized, however, by a traumatic event in an airplane bathroom.
If I can issue a warning to you, do yourself a favor and abide by the “fasten seat belt” sign. If you do not, I can guarantee you will regret it.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.