Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is having control always the issue?

It's kind of a strange thing, this fear of flying. I try not to think about it much, especially when preparing for my trip. I'm busy working, getting ready, packing, planning. I used to deal with the fear by always arriving late to the airport, praying that the security lines weren't too long and that I would make it to the right gate with seconds to spare. Then board. Then be too dazed to realize what was happening. Always running late and not being able to control all the variables added its own kind of stress.

So what do you do? What do I do? Well, after one conversation with a friend of mine who I had emailed in a total panic thinking I had missed my flight (the flight was delayed--how shocking), I realized I was approaching the whole thing in the wrong manner. This was after years of the same behavior. Suddenly I changed.

So what made me change? What were his magic words? It was all about control. There are so few things that you have control over when you fly, he said. You can't control traffic on the way to the airport, length of security lines, additional screening, the fact that your gate is always the farthest one away or in another terminal. The one thing you can control is making sure you get to the airport with plenty of time. That way, no matter what, you have plenty of time to deal with unforeseen problems. No stress. No missing flights because you're late. It's all about control.

Yes, I'm a control freak and when I realized that he was right, I tried this approach in everything especially when I was traveling. It's amazing how such a simple thing--time--can make so many things better. It's nice to be early. Nice not to worry.

But in an airport there is still the issue of me going into an airplane. And now with my new habits I have extra time to be at my gate totally freaking out. And why, oh why, do I always ask WHY there is a delay? 19 times out of 20 the answer comes back--engine trouble or equipment problems. To tell you the truth I'm not that jazzed about getting on a plane that's a known trouble maker, but I do. I now know where the outlets are at each gate. I sit in the corner and plug in my phone. I turn on my lap top. I turn on my iPod and wait. Some things will never change though. I'll still always email and desperately seek reassurances that the flight will be fine. I clutch my cell phone tightly, waiting for the vibration signaling that my email has been answered, that the response has come in, that everything will be okay.

I went to LA for a couple of days this week. I was 90 minutes early for my flight (no traffic, no security line). I paced, sat near an outlet, called a friend and totally panicked. It was cloudy and kind of rainy. I sent off my email pleading for reassurance. Nothing came. My phone didn't vibrate. I got on board, found my seat in the front and sat. I stared at my phone willing it to vibrate. Doors closed. Phones off. But I waited and finally, finally my phone vibrated. It was going to be fine. I sighed a big sigh of relief. The plane lifted off the ground, I looked out the window, camera in hand, and realized that it was a beautiful day. Great for fly-by shooting...

No comments: