But I digress.
To set the stage: You should know that I have never flown on a commercial airplane. The only flying I did was one 15 minute tour across Fremont in a small 4-seater on John C. Fremont Days umpteen years ago– one of the kids was still a baby. It was odd and not at all what I expected- no one told me that air is bumpy. I’m not sure I believe any of the explanations on this that I have heard– I suspect it might be Mother Nature reminding us that only birds fly naturally. I also had no idea that I am intolerant to motion. After this flight, I spent the next 5 hours sick as a dog. And that is the extent of my flying experience. So there ya’ go.
I had to fly, it was a job requirement, and my husband Joe was coming with me. This was my first time on a commercial plane and I was, as might be expected, a nervous wreck. The flight attendant was being super sensitive and trying her gawd-awful best to keep me calm, and to answer my numerous, stupid, and repetitive questions. There were many knowing glances exchanged between the Flight Attendant and Joe– they were actually getting quite a kick out of this, but at the same time, they both wanted me to relax and go with the flow, embrace the experience.
Ok then…we sit and we wait while other individuals are coming aboard– single individuals, couples, three at a time. I like to watch people. I’m actually a pretty avid people watcher; you pick up all kinds of things about people (intuitively) by watching them. Well, maybe you don’t, but I do. So, as I’m sitting there tapping my fingers in my lap and trying to be calm about it all, here comes a young man of mid-eastern persuasion who takes a seat across the aisle from me and about 2 rows back. Ok, interesting, it’s an international world, there’s people from all over Kingdom Come and then some on this plane. Cool. A few seconds later, another man of mid-eastern persuasion comes aboard, he gives a passing glance to the first man, and then he takes a seat on our side, several rows ahead of me. In the time that we sit there, waiting for all the passengers to board, two more men of mid-eastern persuasion come onto the plane. They take seats behind me, several rows back, on both sides of the aisle, but out of my line of vision.
To tell you the truth, it’s at this point that I begin to get a little nervous; but I look around and everyone else seems calm and relaxed, absorbed in their own little worlds– their ipads, or phones, conversation, or whatever. Ok then…it’s just me because I’m nervous anyway. I glance at Joe beside me and he’s intent on something in his hands– maybe his phone, I don’t remember.
I glance over my shoulder at the young man 2 rows back on the other side of the aisle just in time to see him look at his phone, then look up at the man sitting several rows ahead of us, make eye contact, and give a very slight nod. The man ahead of us looks down at his phone, then turns, looking over us, to someone behind us, and does the same thing– makes eye contact and gives a very slight nod.
It hits me like a thunderbolt, right in the gut– These Men Are Communicating With Each Other!!
I grab Joe’s arm and start whispering hysterically, trying to explain this to him. I’m so hysterical in fact, that Joe grabs me by one arm and the Flight Attendant, who’s rushed over, grabs me by the other arm, and they take me back to the kitchen food-prep place. “These men are communicating with each other!”, I tell the Flight Attendant. I explain breathlessly, what I’ve observed, what my instinct and intuition tell me, sounding like a nut-case, I’m sure. I ask frantically, “Are they friends or family members who just weren’t able to get their seats together?”…”I can’t tell you that.” she says in a prissy-business voice. Well, shoot-a-mongay, life would be a lot easier if this woman would just spill her guts and tell me if this is so!
Suddenly…*Ding*…the light-bulb goes off in my mind. That little voice in my head says: “Get off this plane.”
“I want off.” I say suddenly and solidly.
“You can’t get off now, it’s too late, no one can get off this plane now.” she says, looking deep into my eyes with deadly finality and a “I-wish-this-woman-would-shut-up”, “why-on-my-flight” stare. At this point, less strong-willed individuals would have meekly crawled back to their seat in abject submission.
When we’re in dangerous predicaments, our mind tends to speed up and figure things out in some sort of time-warpy way, so although all of this is happening in the matter of just a few minutes, at the same time my mind is racing with a solution…I know how to get off the plane.
I glance down ahead of me to see a metal tray all laid out with food, ready to serve. In one fell swoop, I grab the tray and give a mighty ‘whoosh’ towards the ceiling of the plane– food splatters everywhere. I then start banging the empty tray on the wall, on the counters, acting like a raving lunatic, I’m sure.
The next thing I know, we’re doing a Walk-of-Shame through the airport surrounded by a swarm of armed security guards. And I could care less. I’m so relieved to be off the plane, I could get down and kiss the ground.
You think this is the end of this dream? I thought so too, but there was one more scene:
Out of no where come these guys in suits and ties and shades. They’re motioning to the security guards, ‘bring them this way’, they’re saying without actually saying anything.
I was right, I realize, something was very wrong.
Joe and I found ourselves at a long table in a windowless room, where these men– whoever they were– slapped down several great big books full of mug shots, the books probably 5 inches thick.
“Can you identify these men?” one of them asks me.
And this is where my dream ends, Joe and I pouring over mug shots
I find it a sad sorry state of civilization when someone’s fear of flying isn’t based on the usual stuff– bad weather, pilot error, mechanical failure, but on the threat of terrorism. You hear people complain about all the hoopla you have to go through to board a plane now-a-days, and how long it takes, and how inconvenient it is (whine, whine, whine).
Well, I gotta’ tell you, I want to know– with 100% assurance– that when I get on a plane, it’s going to go where it’s expected to go, and it’s going to get there all in one piece. I don’t care if the check in process has to start the day before departure. I’ll wait.