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The International Writers Magazine


Taking Flight
Colin Todhunter
Fear of flying? You are not alone.

Unfortunately, for most people, air travel has become a necessary part of the travel experience these days. I say "unfortunately" because flying fills me with dread; or, to be more precise, the fear of crashing. Flying in itself is a fabulous experience.

What a feeling to be in the air at thirty-five thousand feet, looking down on the earth below. But the fear of crashing usually takes over during take-off, landing and bouts of turbulence. I can never quite believe that the plane is able to go from standing still on the ground to some outrageous speed and height in a matter of minutes. And landing: I am always amazed that we glide onto the runway instead of crashing head first into it.

On my last flight, it was the turbulence that did it for me. It always occurred at the point when the cabin-crew came around with the coffee. I could already feel the plane shaking around in no-mans land, but as soon as the coffee hit the cup, it sloshed from side to side, reinforcing the feeling that we were all about to die in some hideous crash. Coffee and turbulence do not mix.

At some point, the reassuring voice of the first officer or pilot comes over the tannoy system, offering some comfort. The voice tells us about the flight path. Apparently we will be flying over Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. We are even told which cities we will be flying over. Then we are told that if there are any changes to the flight path (like an imminent crash?), we will be informed accordingly. That was very good of the first officer because at least I could then change my on-board travelling itinerary - from gazing out of the window to... well, er... just gazing out of the window.

Entering the airport before the flight just made things worse. The butterflies were already having a field day in my stomach due to my fear of flying (or should I say, crashing?). Yet as soon as I enter it became a case of butterfly overload. Suddenly from normal citizen I am transformed into potential terrorist, smuggler or any other form of criminal that the authorities can dream up. I feel the gaze of officials and CCTV cameras burning into me - and, of course, the swarm of swirling butterflies still pecking away deep inside.

Just as I become potentially the world’s worst criminal hell bent on sabotage in the air, I suddenly realise that I will be soon on the plane possibly sitting next to the world’s worst criminal hell bent on sabotage in the air. Fear of flying, fear of crashing, fear of butterflies, fear of everything; no wonder I must have the look of a crazed maniac to the authorities. It’s all their fault in the first place for inducing this paranoia. I suppose they already know this, but have neatly carved out a well-paid world of security mania for themselves.

© Colin Todhunter Feb 2004
colin_todhunter@yahoo.co.uk

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