Flying at 4:00 am

It was just after 4:30 am this morning when I left to drive to my cross-fit gym to both take photographs and exercise. The empty suburban lanes and the city lights sparkling in the black air reminded me of leaving for an early morning flight, for EVERY early morning flight I’ve ever taken; maybe the feeling of being only 75% alert and yet already pumping with adrenaline was mimicking the way I feel before I board an aircraft. Or maybe the unknown of an exciting trip was getting mixed up with the anticipation I always get before any photo job, but either way, I had to remind myself NOT to take the highway turn that heads to Sky Harbor.

I’ve enjoyed years of being fear-free on airplanes,  but have also lived through years of being so scared to fly that I tried Greyhound and Amtrak and Xanax, although not all at the same time. (Stay alert for future posts on these exciting topics!) It’s easy to understand how thoughts can get very intense when squashed around in my head which is squashed into a narrow aluminum cylinder hurtling through the air, on a trip that is squashed between work and life obligations, to meet people whose love I will try to squash into a very short time and then expand it out again later, trying to fill empty moments when I’m without them.

Luckily for us both, I sometimes write in a journal when I get nervous on airplanes! Lucky, because now we can both appreciate my witty and introspective airplane intensity.  Here is an excerpt from a solo trip I did to Chicago a while back:

“On plane now…a bit nervous each time the plane plummets a millimeter, sandwiched between two middle-aged guys.  Strange not to have Isa beside me, holding hair, eyes luminous, liquid.  Trying to think of anything interesting but mind feels empty, a looted warehouse.”

Realization: I have never called into a public radio talk show. But if I DID, I would definitely NOT waste precious listening time by gushing, “Diane [Rehm]! I LOVE your show! I’m SO excited!” before stating my comment, nor would I proclaim in a masterful “I’m The Boss” way, “And I’ll take my comments off the air.”  Damn straight you will, bozo.   You think you’re THAT interesting, that vivacious, that there was even a 20% chance they’d keep you ON the air? Ha.

Q: When Diane Rehm is out for “voice treatments,” what, exactly, is happening?

-Someone close by smells of salami. Also, farts gently drift into and out of my personal space like seaweed in the tide.

American Airlines. Pilot just gave long detailed itinerary.  Apparently we will be crossing many states and the Mississippi River. Pity not so good at geography, or might care more.

One of the flight attendants is wearing glasses that are extremely Sarah Palin-eque; also has hair of similar color/style. Wonder if I should say, “Thanks, Sarah. Hey, shot any polar bears lately?” when she comes by with drink cart. Haha. Seriously, though, she could be a 2nd rate look-alike model. Wonder how often she gets comments? Wonder if she is (she MUST be, right?) Republican? Hmmm.  Other F.A. looks very much like Vern Yip. Would it be cool to say, loudly, “Hey! Here come Sarah Palin and Vern Yip!” as cart approaches, to see if anyone chuckles.  Wish Amado were here. He’d laugh.

(-Salami smell embarks on powerful crescendo. Lots of waxy rustling one row back.)

Probably won’t, though. No rapport with seat mates established, or not enough, to make this non-weird-and-in-fact-cool-and-funny.

Dying to, though. REALLY look like them. 3rd attendant has no resemblance-thing going on, though. If I had cooler seatmates, they’d surely appreciate such wit.

-Drank 1/2 a Diet Coke. (Realize I def. prefer Pepsi.)

-Seatmate (R) now eating and exuding salami odor, too.

-Embarrassing moment: Couldn’t stand it anymore and commented pithily to L-seatmate: “Don’t you think that flight attendant looks like Sarah Palin?”  Since hadn’t spoken in ~ 1 hour, voice came out scratchy, small, and first few words blown away by the constant muffled under-roar of air, engines. He looked up from Sudoku book in slight surprise, and after parsing for a few seconds he put together what I’d said and dutifully looked up, peering left and right to see around Vern Yip. Then he politely answered that maybe she did, the glasses, maybe, and turned back to his puzzle.

You see, sometimes it really is better to squash certain impulses.


Still think she looks a lot like S.P., though.


What if I did THIS: Looked over L-seatmate’s arm and transcribed his Sudoku puzzle exactly, box for box, onto my page (not the answers, of course.) Then, tapped his shoulder and said politely, “Could you help me out on this box?” and pointed, showing him my (his) puzzle. Well! I mean, but sometimes that’s what you get for not appreciating an S.P.-lookalike. Ha.


Didn’t do it. Of course.


Guy 3 or 4 rows up ahead on left actually has pen behind EAR. He’s not even slightly “old”. And it’s parked firmly. Remarkable. Has big ears, though, and close to head. Can only assume that helps.

-Wonder if Vern Yip is lining up empty soda cans in trash in perfectly symmetrical little piles?

Tried placing small airline-drink straw behind ear just to see how it fits. It fell off almost immediately, dripping coke onto my shirt, and bounced in a weird way and landed on L-seatmate’s leg. Oops. He just looked at me and handed it back, but think some Coke got on his jeans. But at least I’m not the one farting, like I’m pretty sure HE is, so ….? Ok?

-Minor turbulence. Will NOT freak out.

Pilot says we’re “——Kansas, about an hour and a half ——”. Glad that microphone function and audibility not an indication of general flight safety.

Not liking turbulence. Wondering if should take Xanax, something I’d never do if flying with Isa? But since by myself?…. Amado not here to hold hand.

Pilot saying Buckle Up, Return To Seat. Says it’s getting “nasty.”  If that’s not a prescription tailor-made for a Xanax, I don’t know what is.

Must distract self. Think about the Sudoku thing! Ha! Ha! Laugh!Not working. May try magazine.

Exciting/Disappointing Event:

Free-to-me People magazine discovered in seat pocket! But….is dead Gary Coleman issue. Blech.

-Salami burps intruding.

Things that are satisfying:

-using a coupon and not overspending to make up for it (or so I imagine this would feel)

-using leftovers in a creative way that makes one at once feel crafty, frontier-woman-like, and less guilty for buying 3 new Disney DVD’s and a mega pack of apples.

Things That Are Vaguely Discomfiting:

Why does there always have to be at least one vaguely suspicious-terroristy looking person on every flight? Uggggh.

{from return flight notes:} Plane black except for isolated pockets of yellow. Only two from 21st row to first class; others sleeping.  L-seatmate doing crossword; have not the slightest desire to copy it letter for letter.

Plane continues to descend. Ears full of roaring/silence, need to pop, but won’t pop yet. Muted hiss and roar is a sort of timeless conduit; it’s every flight I’ve ever flown, all at once. Can’t wait to see Amado and Isabel.


Hmmmm. Now reading all of that back, it somehow seems, shall I say, less than wildly introspective?  How unfortunate that I only captured the SURFACE thoughts in my journal. I must make sure to rectify this by doing a more thorough recording job next time.

What do YOU think about when you fly alone? What do you do?  Have you ever shared a Sarah Palin joke with a seatmate, or copied their Sudoku?  How do you stay busy?  I need to know…I need ideas for next time.

Oh, and: What exactly IS D.R. doing during her voice treatments?