I’ve mentioned on here a couple of times before that I don’t like flying on plans very much. It’s not like I’ll freak out and hyperventilate the second I board, but more of a feeling where I’m just uncomfortable being cooped up in the cabin at 30,000 feet or whatever the altitude may be.
But that’s not to say I’ve never flown on a plane, and with that I’ll answer this writing prompt about my first airplane experience. It happened a few months after I graduated from high school, and the destination being… well, let’s say it was a city out West where I needed to go to for a few months to… well, even writing under a feminine alias doesn’t make me comfortable to admit the reason, so let’s dispense for why I was out West for the 4 most difficult months of my life (I will admit that).
Anyway, it was the first week of the December after I turned 18 and I was flying out of Milwaukee for my trip… *ahem* out West. It was not only my first time on a plane but my first time at an airport, and let me tell you, for a naive 18-year-old like me, the Mitchell Airport terminal was a pretty big place.
Yeah, I was rather nervous, and reading a newspaper or eavesdropping on what was playing on the TV in the lounge across from my gate’s waiting area didn’t make me any more comfortable. If I recall correctly, we started to board around 4:30PM for what would be a 2-leg evening flight for me via Northwest Airlines: A short hop from Milwaukee to Minneapolis/St Paul, followed by a longer leg from the Twin Cities to… *ahem* a certain city on the Pacific Coast.
That first leg was rather short, but it had a 5-minute “thank you for flying Northwest” video along with instructions from the flight attendants; you know, that’s the part where they point to the aisles and exits we need to use in case the plane… uh, makes an emergency landing. Thank goodness there wasn’t any trouble for that 90-minute or so flight to the Twin Cities airport. The plane was rather big for a short flight (2 aisles, if I recall correctly), and I had a rather confining seat in the middle section of the plane during this flight, and I couldn’t wait to deplane once we landed around 6:30PM.
But I had a very, very short turnaround for Leg 2 of my journey, with about only 20 minutes or so until my next flight was scheduled to leave the gate (just before 7PM). So, I had to run pretty quick to the next gate, though I did have enough time to get a quick snack to eat and a newspaper to read at one of the shops at the terminal. Needless to say, I did board in plenty of time.
This second plane was smaller than the one I just got off of (don’t ask me about the model of planes; I don’t remember that); the sections were a little narrower and there was only one aisle, or so I want to recall. My seat was a little bit more comfortable in that it was alongside the aisle. No, there was no window seating for me; the night flight would have made looking out the window not very appealing. What this second flight had that the first one didn’t was an in-flight meal. I can’t recall what I ate, but it was, well, airplane food, so make of that what you will. What I do recall was that this plane had a smoking section. Back then, people could still smoke on flights, although they had to sit way in the back of the cabin to do so. All that awful air made walking to the back of the plane to use the lavatory not a fun experience. (Northwest would actually ban smoking on all of their flights the following April. If only they had done this before my flight. *gasp* *ugh*)
My flight was a rather boring one, actually. There was no in-flight movie; I had no headset radio; and reading the newspaper or the in-flight magazine didn’t take my mind off of missing my family or the destination that awaited me. What made this second flight a little more bearable was a brief conversation I had with a lady sitting across the aisle from me. She could tell I was a little bit nervous, so I admitted to her it was my first journey in the air. I also told her about the reason for my flight… which I’m still not going to tell you here, suffice it to say I did not relish getting off on that West Coast city as much as the flight it took to get there (I tend not to think about that reason too much anymore; a 29-year time distance certainly helps). She didn’t know too much about my destination reason, meaning she wasn’t too much of a reassuring voice for my jittery nerves. But there was something soothing and reassuring about the tone in her voice, and she did wish me good luck when we disembarked the plane about 3 or 4 hours after we took off.
Which brings me to my experience in the airport terminal once I landed. This particular airport, for 8PM at night, was a pretty bustling place. But when I got to the spot at the terminal where I had to report for… *ahem* the reason I flew out there in the first place (again, I’m still not going to tell you, but it wasn’t due to anything illegal if that eases your mind any), I noticed what could be considered awesome human moments: Fellow travelers greeting their loved ones who were awaiting them. Smiling faces. Warm words. Hugs and kisses, laughter and maybe a tear or two of happiness. Oh, and one or two women in leather pants, which piqued the feminine side in me that I had to keep inside those next few months. Those were happy moments. It made me wish for a little bit… if only there were someone happily and eagerly awaiting me at that very moment as much as those families were.
Those next few hours after landing for me would be… let’s just say a whirlwind time, one important thing to do after another and very, very little time to catch my breath and rest, let alone sleep. Oh, yeah, which reminds me… Since my mind was racing not only about the fight and what could have gone wrong (but didn’t), as well as not precisely knowing what awaited me once I landed, I didn’t catch even a second of sleep. I know for sure that sleep would have done my body and psyche good, but my mind was too busy going in circles to even consider a few minutes of shut eye. I think the fact that I was so, so busy then didn’t allow me to think… hey, I landed without a scratch. It wasn’t a very comfortable trip, but it went without a hitch.
But once my… *ahem* 4-month stay on the West Coast was finished, did I consider flying back to Wisconsin? Not a bit. Since the results of my stay out there wasn’t what the powers that be who kept me there had wanted of me, they gave me a bus ticket home. And despite a couple of overnight trips on a cramped bus, that 4-day trip back home on land was actually more pleasing then the several-hour flight that took me away from home. Part of the reason is that appreciating scenic beauty is best when you do it on terra firma. Those wide open spaces felt nowhere near as confining as being on a plane.
So, now you know my reasoning for not feeling comfortable on an airplane. But that trip Out West wasn’t the only time I’ve flown. About 4 years after that, my family and I flew from Wisconsin to Orlando and back for a week-long vacation. Just over 5 years after that, I flew from Wisconsin to Kentucky and back for a business trip, which was the last time I had a reason to travel by plane. For any long vacations I’ve taken since then, I drove to get there.