Back in the Spring of 2005, I got to go with my dad on an incredible trip to Paris. It was the most exotic place I’d ever been before, my first time out of the country, and my first time ever on an airplane. I was fourteen years old, which may be a little bit later than usual to experience flight for the first time, but that was just fine with me. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m afraid…of a lot; loud noises, snakes, balloons, angry people yelling in a different language, and heights, just to scratch the surface of my many fears. The fear of heights was a big one for me growing up. I was the weirdo who didn’t like going to amusement parks, because I wouldn’t ride the roller coasters, and I didn’t like going to stadiums or arenas if our seats were too high up because that’s all I could think about while we were there. In my mind though, neither of those things compared to flying, which is the ultimate height. I’m not an astronaut (RIP John Glenn) and have no desire to be so I will never reach a place higher than 40,000 feet in the air in a metal container with stationery wings.
I was understandably nervous as the looming flight grew closer, but I think to my credit I put on a brave face and downplayed how terrified I was feeling. My first foray into the realm of air travel was to take place at night, traveling along the course from Memphis to Amsterdam, before catching a connecting flight to Paris after a brief layover (look at me and my airport jargon). It was dark when we boarded the plane for our ten hour flight, and before long we were taxiing toward the runway. You’ve already been made aware about my dislike of loud noises, so imagine how I felt sitting in an airplane listening to the roar of the engine, two of my fears combined to guarantee an upset stomach. Then something happened, we weren’t flying. We were just stopped and confusion of seasoned travelers was evident throughout the plane.
An announcement from the captain informed us that there was some kind of mechanical problem with the plane, and that it needed to be worked on before it was safe to fly. We were on the runway, seconds away from takeoff, when the mechanical problem was discovered. That is cutting it way too close for my already dissipating comfort. What would have happened if they didn’t realize something was wrong? All of my fears would have been justified. My dad downplayed the situation by talking about how this sort of thing happens all the time, and everything would be fine. After a couple hours, yes hours, of sitting on the plane while it was being worked on, it was finally ready for takeoff. The process of takeoff and the initial ascent was and still is the most terrifying part of flying for me, the roar of the engine as you’re leaned back at an angle as the plane zooms skyward is very dramatic, and something you might see in a movie before everyone dies. I got more comfortable as the flight wore on and we made it safely to our destination. Over the course of that trip, and the three additional flights we had, I started to feel better about the whole ordeal. While I’m still afraid of heights, at least airplanes are no longer on the list as a subcategory, and I have that spring break trip all those years ago, to thank for helping me overcome the fear.