Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Up, up and away I went! by Leah St. James

Last month I wrote about my extreme anxiety over an upcoming trip which required me to travel by air travel. (I suffer from serious motion sickness, especially of the up-and-down kind of motion.) The condition has grounded me for many years, it was only my best friend’s daughter’s wedding halfway across the country that coaxed me into purchasing that airline ticket. 

I’m back to report that the trip went without problems, and to share with you a few lessons learned.

1. Confront your fears but  with a plan.

My “fear of flying” wasn’t irrational, it was based on experience. I have vertigo and have lived with its effects for years. So I avoid situations that bring these symptoms to the surface. (Sometimes I just walk into walls...but that’s another story.)

This trip, though, couldn’t be avoided without a lot of heartache and unnecessary expense, in time and money.  I HAD TO get on that plane. So I did what every good author does:  I researched.  

I Googled “best way to combat motion sickness in planes” and phrases like that. I read forums and medical websites. I got advice from people who also suffer from motion sickness but who manage to travel despite it. I decided to try the Scopolamine Transdermal patch and headed for my doctor’s office for a prescription. I ended up with prescriptions for that AND another anti-vertigo medication that could be taken with the patch. 

As far as navigating air travel in the 21st century, my sister (a frequent traveler) armed me with step-by-step instructions on what to expect through the security checks, to boarding and making that connecting flight in Atlanta (a humongous terminal, it turns out). 

All that was left was for me to get to the airport and onto the first leg of the trip. Which is when I learned my second lesson: 

2. If you don’t know what to do in a situation others call "nomal," watch their behavior.

My sister had told me what to expect at the TSA check-point, but I’d never actually seen any of it except on TV, so I held back for a bit and watched a couple people navigate through. It looked pretty easy. The staff/guards were smiling (always a good sign, I think), and travelers appeared unscathed as they headed off toward their gates on the other side. I ventured forth and mimicked what I had seen, and except for a scan of my poor laptop which for some reason froze the machine’s internal clock (hmm...a suspense plot is brewing in my head), I had no issues.

After about a two-hour wait, we got the boarding call, and I learned my next lesson.

3. Don’t be afraid to admit your vulnerabilities, when it makes sense.  You never know when you’ll meet a guardian angel.

We know there are times when we have to appear strong even when we’re quaking inside. Mothers do it for their children all the time. So do friends and siblings. But standing in that jet way with the throng of others waiting to squish themselves into the “flying tin can,” I couldn’t help myself. I blurted out, “I haven’t flown in 40 years.”

Dead silence met my statement for a heartbeat, then the young man in front of me said, “Oh...great!” There was more than a touch of sarcasm in his tone.

I responded, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ve been properly dosed with prescription pharmaceuticals.” (See, there I was talking bravely while inside I had no idea if the drugs would work!)

He laughed and said, “I’ve been properly dosed with some liquid comfort as well!”

We scootched forward, a few steps at a time, and the man behind me, 60-ish and carrying a plastic grocery store bag in his hand (no luggage), started giving me pointers about how to manage with my carry-on. It helped. And was I surprised when he turned out to be my seat-mate.

After fumbling with the blasted seatbelt for about a minute, and by now having a small acquaintance with him, I asked him, “How do you fasten this thing?” 

He looked. “You have it backwards. The tab goes into that end.” 

D’oh. I’d been trying to stick it in the backside....but let’s not go there, okay?

 As the plane began its taxi, my new friend engaged me in small talk. He was traveling to somewhere about an hour north of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a quick trip home to visit his grandkids. (The plastic bag held toys for them.) He told me about his job in our area, I told him about mine. As the plane lifted off, he kept talking, sharing with me his political stance on various topics. A few minutes after leveling off, he just stopped talking and closed his eyes.

Well, I thought, I guess he’s bored with me! Then I realized he’d probably been chattering away to keep my mind occupied so I would freak out. 

I occupied myself for the next hour watching the clouds from above--a glorious sight I had not expected.

When we deplaned he stuck by me to make sure I’d get my bag back (which they’d whisked away earlier...not enough room in the overheads). Once he saw I had it safely in hand, he wished me a good trip and strode off, presumably toward Tulsa and points north. I hope he made it there safely. I hope he had a wonderful visit with his family.

I’ll never know his name, but I’ll always remember his kindnesses to a skittish fellow traveler.

As for the wedding, it was a beautiful, fairy-tale event. I got to join in on the pre-wedding fun and had a wonderful visit with my best buddy. 

So what’s my bottom line? I successfully conquered my fear of flying—with the help of family, friends, pharmaceuticals and unexpected guardian angels. I’m already planning where I might fly off to next.


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Learn more at


Diane Burton said...

OMG, I'm first to respond! So glad you had a great trip,Leah. Guardian Angels are great. So are drugs. Glad the patch worked for you. Mine didn't on the cruise. It kept falling off. The wedding picture is lovely. Now you're all set to come and visit any of us. Open invitation to Michigan.

RE Mullins said...

I still FB with a Canadian woman I met on a plane. We hit it off immediately and the flight just 'flew' by.

Margo Hoornstra said...

And I second Diane's invitation to Michigan! What a fantastic story, Leah, you nearly had me in tears at your triumph. The wedding picture is beautiful, so glad you had a great time. Conquering one's fears. What a concept, huh? ;-)

Jannine Gallant said...

So, Leah, no excuse not to come to our ROP retreat when we organize it for next summer! Congrats on your successful navigation of our airways. My oldest (19) went to Guatemala a few weeks ago--first time traveling alone or even on a plane since she was 7. My husband drove her to San Francisco, took one look at the insane terminal traffic, and booted her out at the curb. She survived, too, despite my fears to the contrary. LOL We all do what we have to do when pushed.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Big congrats. I don't like flying and have logged many air miles. I'm glad your seat buddy helped out. My fear when flying is I'll have a seat buddy who won't shut up! LOL

Alicia Dean said...

What a great recap! It sounds like you prepared well and it paid off. I'm so glad you got to go. Hmmmm, an hour north of Tulsa? My sister lives an hour north of Tulsa, which is about 200 miles north of me. It's also the area where that contains the spook light that my upcoming gothic mystery novella is based on! :) Do you recall the name of the town? Thanks for an interesting blog post!

Alison Henderson said...

I'm so glad you found a guardian angel. I rarely talk to people when I travel, but I've done more than my fair share. Next time I'll be on the lookout for someone who could use a little shoring up.

Leah St. James said...

Diane - I thought about your un-sticking patch as I applied mine! I kept touching it to make sure it was there! I was lucky that I wasn't dealing with hot/sticky weather as you must have been onboard a ship. Plus I had a back-up medication, which I took! I'd love to come visit Michigan! My husband has cousins near Detroit and we've been a few times (by car, of course). If we get back there, I'll see if I can make a side trip. :-)

Leah St. James said...

That's so cool, RE! Do you ever meet in person?

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Margo. I was nearly in tears on that first flight when I realized we were up in the sky and I hadn't had any ... episodes. :-) Thanks for your kind words.

Leah St. James said...

I would have been a nervous wreck sending one of my kids off to Guatamala, Jannine, but they're both braver than I am! And yes, the ROP retreat is definitely in my horizon now. I might not be able to save enough "pennies," but at least I have a shot. :-)

Leah St. James said...

Brenda, I worried that I was chattering too much. Then I figured that airplane etiquette might be a bit more abrupt. No "Excuse me..." before turning one's attention. Just shut your eyes and take a nap!

Leah St. James said...

Ally, I thought of you (of course) when my seat-mate was telling me about his home in Oklahoma! I wondered how close to you he was. Really nice gentleman.

Leah St. James said...

What a nice thought, Alison. I'm sure if you find someone, he or she will be so grateful.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Good for you, Leah! Proud of you! Adventures ahead.

Leah St. James said...

Thank you, Rolynn! :-) I'm pretty pleased with myself. I feel like I finally grew up..

J L said...

Bravo to you for braving it -- air travel can be a real P.I.T.A. I have a bunch of frequent flyer miles on multiple airlines, so I know of what I speak. It helps to have a plan. I travel by milestones: first get to the airport; clear security; find your gate; get on board; ... I never look beyond the next milestone. It seems to help somehow. I've held the hand of a scared flyer (literally) and helped several folks through the process. It always makes it easier to me.

Leah St. James said...

That makes so much sense, JL. I think that's what I did, but subconsciously. I kept telling myself, "An hour from now, you'll be (insert next step)," to keep myself moving forward. I'm sure you were such a blessing to those folks whose hands you held!