I don’t want to be too dramatic. No, not me. But on the JetBlue plane ride home from Florida on Sunday, we hit an air pocket and we suddenly dropped far and fast. It felt like we dropped 100 feet. Some people gave out a quick short scream — like we were on a roller coaster ride. I didn’t scream. I even thought, Good for you, MB, for not screaming and adding to the general terror level around here!
I had just closed my laptop on my tray table. My seat mate’s Diet Coke flew all over my arm and my tray table. And I thought, if I live and my hard drive needs replacing, I’m so screwed with the guys in my workplace IT department.
The seat belt light ding-ed on. Once we leveled off to normal turbulence, the pilot was on the loud speaker, assuring us that other planes ahead of us had also experienced this weather.
“So we’re not alone,” my seatmate, Win, said.
We were in the 5th row. I looked back, down the aisle, and it was littered with ice.
Wyn said he had his pilot’s license. He assured me that the kind of clouds we now saw outside the jet’s window, long and thin, were less dangerous than the clouds, big and fluffy, we’d just flown through.
“You’re scared,” Wyn said.
“Yes,” I said. “I can’t have anything happen to me. My kids need me.” I tried to breath. I explained that at times, I was a single parent because of my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease.
We stopped talking. To distract myself from my clammy hands and shortness of breath, I turned on the TV. I channel-tripped across a couple of dozen channels. There was nothing on. Nothing. Nothing that comforted me or distracted from my thoughts — we were about to die. There were home decorators, chefs, political pundits all yapping. But nobody was saying, “You are going to be okay. Don’t worry. Life is deep and rich. You’re still a part of it.”
What did comfort me? The real people around me, like Win, who was steady and unflappable; the flight attendants and their calmness; the idea that planes are designed to fly, even through turbulence and big air pockets.
I noticed the flight attendants seemed to be ministering to someone laid out in the back of the cabin. That didn’t comfort me.
Once we landed, I thought, I don’t want to fly again for a very long time. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to fly again in a few weeks.
I worried about my laptop, but when I turned it on again, thank God, it booted up.
Business as usual. Just keep flying. One day at a time. We’re not alone.