Last week I did something that I very rarely do which was to take a vacation. I was coming up on an important birthday (I’m sure you can guess which number I hit) and I wanted to do something very special to celebrate. For years I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about California but I’ve always made up excuses why we couldn’t travel there. Then I realized I was being an idiot as the real reason was because I am terrified to fly.
Trying to describe this phobia to other people who don’t have it is difficult. I come from a family of flyers- my brother is even an airline captain. I’ve flown quite a bit- especially when I was younger as my parents suffer from wanderlust, and I’m familiar with the experience of it. I know the stats and how safe it is, but it doesn’t matter. The second I see the airport and all the planes and the people, my body lurches into a state of panic. I just see fire balls in the sky and want to cry. I’ve never flown with John and although he knew about my fear, he couldn’t believe how deep and menacing it was until he experienced it first hand.
Even before we boarded the plane I went through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief. There was actually a sixth stage which was blind panic, which I favoured but I also spent a lot of time in denial and depression with the occasional comatose stage of acceptance. I had two solid vodka tonics in me which helped dull these sensations but it wasn’t enough. We boarded the plane and the nice flight attendant gave me another vodka tonic which I chugged back in front of him (much to his horror) before he declared that I belonged in a frat house. The journey itself was fine until we hit turbulence over Utah. It came out of nowhere and it was startling. People screamed- I was one of them and likely the loudest, then I cried and shook for a while. After that, I found myself under the suspicious eye of the flight attendant as I was probably labeled ‘high risk’ or some other term they use for unpredictable drunk artists. John was good- he did his best to console and calm me and he even let me tear the skin off his hand to help distract myself.
However, it was all worth it. California was breathtaking in spite of the drought. We spent some time at Mr. C’s in Beverly Hills before going up the coast to the Biltmore in Montecito and Santa Barbara where I couldn’t get over the ocean views and gorgeous architecture. We went back to Los Angeles and stayed at the magical Chateau Marmont in one of their garden cottages that we nicknamed ‘The Mildred Pierce’ as it was authentically out of the 1940’s and was very special.
The trip back was significantly easier, mostly thanks to the harrowing taxi ride from West Hollywood to LAX in a record breaking 17 minutes. After that, I was more than happy to take my chances with the airplane.