Please stop the plane, I want to get off.

19 03 2008

I’ve been home for almost a week, and I’ve just about caught up with life. (I told it to stay put while I was away, but it didn’t even slow its pace. Cheeky.)

Croatia was amazing, and I imagine I’ll be processing for quite a while. I know I’m a different person than I was when I left, but then, I suppose we all wake up at least a little changed each new day, whether we travel half way around the world or walk around the block. Some changes shout through a megaphone and others only whisper. Part of what I learned in Croatia was to listen to the whispers.

So, kids, I have lots of stories. And 699 pictures (after deleting the rejects). But don’t worry. I love my loyal blog readers and don’t want any of you to feel like you’ve been consigned to “here’s another shot of Uncle Herbert with the elephants” hell, I’m going to dish out my stories in small servings. Little bites to be long savored. Dining European style.

Everybody cozy? Okay. Here we go. My first story happened before I even landed on Croatian soil, and it starts with a confession. I’m not a particularly sympathetic person. (And the crowd gasps in mock horror and feigned shock.) So, when George would complain about his claustrophobic tendencies, I’d listen, but inside I was thinking, “Oh, come on. It can’t be that bad. Just get a grip.” However, after my experience flying from Dallas to Frankfurt, I will no longer think of George or his fellow claustrophobes as wussies.

Mine was an “overnight” flight–the idea being that one will depart one’s own country late afternoon, sleep as much as possible, and arrive at 2:00 AM body time, which is 9:00 AM in the land of one’s destination. To aid in this attempt at biological deception, the airline feeds you dinner around 6:00 PM and “breakfast” shortly after midnight, aka 7:00ish in the morning.

Of course, any sleeping one does must be accomplished in a seat that was apparently designed for maximum discomfort and to numb one’s nether regions as quickly as possible. “Are we having fun yet? We are? Well, in that case the captain has turned on the fasten-your-seatbelt sign. There goes your half inch of wiggle room!”

So, I thought I’d be clever and beat the system. I had my neck pillow. I had my earplugs. I had my oh-so-fashionable eye shades. And I knew how to use them!

I sat by the window. A very friendly, talkative man from India sat beside me. Much of the time I couldn’t understand what he said, but I nodded and smiled and (when I deciphered a snatch) assured him that, though I’d never tried Coco Chanel perfume, no doubt it was every bit as wonderful as the ad in the magazine claimed, and how fascinating that perfume was one of his hobbies, and jewelry, too? how nice, and yes, now that you mention it, I was actually reading this book that is open in front of me, but no bother, I’d just as soon catch half of what you’re saying instead. Oh, what a pity! They’re turning out the lights. Guess we should try to catch a few Zs, eh?

I arranged my pillow, inserted my ear plugs, slipped on my eye shades and tried to get comfy. In spite of my aching tail bone, I think I dozed off and on for a couple of hours. And then a very strange thing happened. I awoke in a panic, hot, closed in, and nauseated. I yanked off the eye shade, clawed out the ear plugs, squirmed my way out of my sweater, and tried to take slow, deep breaths. “Please don’t let me throw up,” I prayed over and over. The plane was dark, and the man next to me was asleep. The seat in front of me leaned all the way back, staring me in the face. The side of the plane curved inward, further encroaching on my space. “Don’t scream. You really don’t want to scream,” I told myself. “Breathe. Just keep breathing.”

A few minutes later Man from India stirred and opened his eyes.

“May I get out?” I whispered.

He stood and I scooted out of the seat. My legs felt weak and I imagined my face pasty in a ghostly shade of green. A trip to the lavatory proved I still looked mostly like myself, but I knew I couldn’t go back to that seat. I stood in the hallway for thirty minutes, taking deep breaths. More than anything I wanted to get off that plane, and knowing it was miles above the Atlantic Ocean at the time only made me feel more trapped. I pushed the thought aside and concentrated on breathing.

When they turned on the lights for our midnight “breakfast,” I returned to my seat. Thankfully the guy in front of me raised his seat back to the upright position, and light seemed to help. I ate very slowly, not trusting my stomach, but the rest of the trip passed uneventfully. I’m happy to report I never vomited or screamed or even mentioned my struggle to Man from India. On the flight from Frankfurt to Croatia I had three seats to myself, and I lay down and slept with nary a hint of panic.

I sincerely hope this was an isolated event. Meanwhile, I know I’ll show much more sympathy in the future, at least as far as claustrophobia is concerned. Which is a good thing, I suppose. As for other issues, hopefully all you wusses out there will keep those to yourselves. 😉



4 responses

20 03 2008

I felt the same “panic” about five hours into our 10 hour flight to Frankfurt. I really wanted off the plane. The trip to the “necessity room” only made matters worse because we hit a bump or two while I was locked inside the tiny closet. I loved my experiences abroad, I just wish there was an easier way to get from here to there. 🙂

20 03 2008

I flew to London once on that same kind of overnight deal. It’s miserable. I didn’t suffer claustrophobia at that point but I have in the past, particularly when rescuing my stuck children in McDs playland. Shudder.

Jen T.

21 03 2008

There is an easier way, Marcia. I know it exists, because I’ve actually caught brief glimpses of the privileged few who enjoy it. Of course, they avoided eye contact when I shuffled past them. I guess they didn’t want to think about the sufferings of the cruelly tortured as they sipped their champagne and dabbed their lips with fine white linen.

Yes. The easier way exists. It’s called “flying first class.” Maybe some day . . .

21 03 2008

McD’s playland is far worse! I don’t even want to think about what’s coating the insides of all that plastic tubing. You win the shudder war, hands down, Jen.

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