It’s no state secret that I am not wild about flying. I’ve probably flown 150 times or more on business or pleasure trips, but I’m always glad to be back on the ground.
I think it’s a case of too much information. Ever since I read that every landing is in fact a “controlled crash,” I have been leery of the last few minutes of every flight, although not as leery as I am of takeoffs. When Geri and I flew to Portugal a decade ago, we took off in bad weather that shook the plane so violently I was pretty sure I was going to meet my Maker much earlier than I had hoped.
Another time, en route to Milwaukee, the pilot flew us quite erratically and the guy in the next seat kept saying, “Did you hear that noise? Was that the door blowing off?” By the time we arrived in the home of the Brewers, I was never so glad to touch terra firm again.
The curious thing is that, once I’m airborne and until we start to land, I’m fine thanks to soothing music, a movie or two, a book or a magazine and a snack or a meal. I wish I could sleep on a plane but I cannot, despite repeated efforts, including ingesting prescribed medications designed to knock me out but which, in fact, made me feel twitchy and confined. Not good.
Then there is the matter of delays. Ever since terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and changed our lives in America forever, air travel has become an ordeal of unimaginable proportions when compared to pre-2001. It has always been possible to be cooped up next to the world’s most annoying passenger for hours, of course, but now the whole check-in process with screeners has led me to opt to drive almost every time on trips of eight hours or less.
It’s hard to imagine this today, but in the late 1960s, I’d walk up to a ticket counter shortly before a flight was ready to leave, buy a $50 student standby ticket, and fly to Phoenix on a whim to see my cousins. I can’t do that anymore, and not just because Bob and Jeanette are long since gone to the next life, God rest their gentle souls.
I read recently that your chances of being killed in an aviation accident are one in 15 million, which is surely better odds than your chances of surviving a five-minute drive to Wal-Mart, especially with so many drivers texting or talking on their cell phones. We need tougher laws to take licenses away from such folks. But I digress.
I suppose when you come right down to it, one way of dying is not much better than another, although personally I have never been crazy about the thought of plummeting at 500 miles an hour from 35,000 feet into an Iowa cornfield. I’d much prefer to die in my sleep, thanks, or at the very least, doing something I would enjoy. I picture having cardiac arrest at the moment that the Cleveland Indians win the World Series and dying with a smile on my face.
Check that. The real truth is that, as Lent reminds me on a yearly basis, I don’t want to die at all just yet because there is no way I am ready to face the Almighty. I genuinely envy people who say they are completely at peace and ready to go. But that’s not me. I’m working toward that readiness at a glacial pace, God help me. Fortunately, I believe that God truly will.
Lou Jacquet is editor of the Exponent