I say I’m afraid of flying, but it’s not so much the flying that scares me. It’s the taking off. Something about the no-turning-back-now, we’re-officially-stuck-in-this-thing-for-real commitment of leaving behind solid ground just doesn’t sit well with me.
The anxiety isn’t bad enough that I refuse to fly at all, but it’s bad enough. In the three or four days leading up to a trip, it consumes me in a way that only irrational fear can, making me feel ungrounded long before my departure time, disconnected from my body and from reality. It manifests in a quiet, inward way that only those who know me well can sense.
I’ve tried hypnosis. I’ve tried therapy. I’ve tried visualizing. I’ve tried logic. All to no avail.
So…I’ve resorted to superstition.
Over the years I have perfected my patented Three-Step Take-Off Ritual. It’s simple, yet very precise:
Step One — look through a (preferably brand new) magazine — slowly — as soon as the plane moves away from the gate.
Step Two — at the exact moment the plane takes off, check the time (related superstition: the only time I ever wear a watch is when I fly).
Step Three — repeat my favorite always-at-the-ready prayer and avoid checking the time again for as long as possible…but at least ten minutes.
It’s a system that’s worked pretty well for quite some time, but it was put to the test on a recent red-eye flight from Seattle to Detroit.
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