Daily Archives: February 2, 2014

Canned Sardines

My husband tells a story about the time that his father was travelling on a small plane that developed engine trouble.

Faced with the possibility of having to bail out, his father spent some time scouting an escape route while still in the air. He thought that he would be able to survive if the plane went down near a certain island, allowing him to swim to safety.

I found myself doing something similar when I took a plane recently. The tops of the trees looked pretty close, but I knew that it was still a long way down – to the ground.

The story about my father-in-law demonstrates his sense of optimism. But in my case, I was already lamenting how close we would have been – and yet so far – from our destination if something untoward was to happen. Pessimistic, I know.

I hate flying. And as I get older I like it even less. If I could take a bus to get to New York I would, but it’s kind of hard to get off this island without taking a plane.

So the one ritual that I have (besides prayer), is that I always make sure to watch the flight attendant as she does the safety spiel. Every time. Even though I’ve seen it a million times before.

But I always wonder how many of us would really remember what to do “in the event of an emergency”.

You know when she says that the light from the life jacket will “illuminate on contact with water”? How many of us know that by the time that happens, we are well and truly screwed? I know for sure that I’d be blowing the hell out of that whistle to “attract attention”. But I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody paid me any mind at all. Anyway I might be too busy experiencing hypothermia to even care.

I’m amazed at the science of flying, but since even a stair stepper gives me vertigo, I don’t think that I’ll be coming back as a pilot in my next life.

Somebody described a plane as a sardine can flying through the air – for all the protection that it doesn’t provide. But maybe it is true what they say about flying being safer than driving a car – because I’ve actually been in more than one car accident, but never in one involving a plane.

A few years ago, on a particularly bumpy flight, my husband and I were sitting behind a woman who hated flying more than I did. I consider myself the aviophobic equivalent of the quiet drunk. So even though the plane dips and shudders when flying through bad weather, I stare stoically ahead, or keep my eyes glued to my paperback, reading the same line over and over again. But I’m quiet.

The passenger in front of us was just the opposite. Whenever the plane dipped and cavorted, she would grip the hand rests tightly while praying loudly to her Jesus, always ending His name with a sibilant “s”. It was still funny after the fifteenth time, and since I knew how she was feeling, I could empathize with her.

I love to visit different places, so flying will always have to be a minor bump along the road to getting there.

But I’ve never looked at sardines in quite the same way again.