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