Monday, November 05, 2007

The Real Life Scariest Thing

Friday I told you about my spooky encounter with three men at the foot of the bed, who several readers have informed me were in fact Ninja assassins at the wrong house. Telepathic Ninja assasins at that, but since I still have no confirmed explanation for this experience, I will continue to file it in spooky, creepy scary experiences rather than real life scary experiences.

As I previously explained, real life scary experiences are brushes with a death we had not hoped for ourselves at all. Like everyone else I want to just drop dead one day when I'm close to a hundred. I do not want to die in a plane crash.

I hate flying. Flying scares me consistently more than anything else and its mostly because I'm a control freak and a fidgeter and because I still, no matter how many times people explain it to me, simply can't wrap my mind around the whole concept of lift. I just can't. I'm sorry. All of these things make me a royal pain in the ass to fly with, so if you can help it, don't fly with me.

And speaking of pain in the ass, can I for once, please just enjoy a nice plane ride without having diarrhea? Just once? No? Ok. Because that would be really nice and might help me get over my fear of airplanes, which I now associate with the stale-tongue taste of chewable immodium.

For a person who hates to fly I certainly do it enough, and I used to fly even more. For three years Husband and I had a long distance relationship. I lived here and he lived in San Francisco. We met while he was on vacation and I like to joke that with all the freaks in South Florida the only way I was going to get a good man was to import one. Because we were nuts and because we were crazy stupid in love we flew back and forth across the country, racking up lots of frequent flier miles, to see one another. Normally I wouldn't recommend this type of relationship, so let me just add this disclaimer. Long Distance Relationships usually don't work. It has to be really worth it and both people have to live in cool cities to visit. I mean, I really think that if we lived in say Milton, Delaware and Reno, Nevada, that our relationship might not have been so successful.

Because I am so deathly afraid to fly and even more afraid to fly alone you can get a pretty good estimate of just how much I loved Husband if I was willing to spend almost 6 hours alone with a stomach ache, 30,000 feet above the midwest in a skinny metal tube that could potentially kill me.

One time in particular I actually thought "this is it, I'm dead and I will be all over the news and this is just fantastic because it's going to happen over the city of Atlanta, my former home."

My flight was delayed and it was one of those bad flights that you see on the news where people have to sit for fifteen hours on the runway and they're hungry and someone has a stomach virus and the toilets overflow and then someone has a pulmonary emobolism while another goes ballistic from being trapped on the plane for fifteen hours. We were delayed because there were tornadoes in Atlanta, where we had a layover. We sat on the runway for four hours during which time we ate small bags of pretzels, drank cokes and watched "Two Weeks Notice" which I actually enjoyed very much. All was well. I had a whole row to myself. At first I was sitting next to a Mormon missionary on his way home to Salt Lake City and he was trying to get all Book of Mormon on me and start busting out the cureloms, but then he got off the plane and flew standby on a direct flight to Salt Lake City and left me curelom-less with a row to myself where I sat wondering why Sandra Bullock always has to play the ugly, frumpish roles when she's really cute and how in the world people can actually believe that an angel named Moron (MORON people) visited Joseph Smith and told him all this stuff and no one even saw any proof of it. Oh I am bracing myself to get angry emails from the Mormons now, but I only have one reader from Utah anyway and I hope that maybe he or she has been excommunicated. But clearly having Mormons hating your ass isn't a huge detriment. Look at Dooce. Not only is she the skinniest woman in the world on antidepressants (how do they not make her fat like they do everyone else?), she has made a living off of being an un-Mormon in a land full of them. Before I digress and start telling you about my obsession with polygamist, fundamentalist cult Mormons with 39 inbred children, I have to get back to this plane ride.

If you hear the pilot say these words "Folks, this is probably gonna be the roughest flight most of y'all have ever been on" followed up by these words "we may ask you at some points to assume the crash position but don't worry" and ending with "it's gonna be extremely dangerous to get out of your seats at any time during this flight so please locate your air sickness bags if you think you might need them and please go to the bathroom now before we're airborne" immediately, I repeat, immediately GET OFF THE PLANE. I did not do this. I sat there and broke out into a cold sweat.

You know those commercials where people can't do all sorts of fun things on their vacations because what if their diarrhea comes back? My diarreah came back. After we were airborne.

The first twenty minutes of the flight seemed ok to me so I figured oh, they're just being alarmist and nothing's going to happen. I went to the bathroom and a strapped in flight attendant freaked out and told me I had to sit down. I explained it was an emergency.

Once in the bathroom everything was fine and then very quickly it wasn't. The flight got rough, so I finished up prematurely and stumbled out into the cabin. Suddenly the plane lurched so hard to one side that I was tossed into the back row where an ordinary, middle aged man sat alone.

"I'm scared and I'm going to sit right here with you," I told the man.

"That's fine," said the man who introduced himself as Smitty (his real name, I'm not changing it).

Smitty was a really normal kinda guy. He was friendly and told me he was a traveling salesman who sold some sort of part to something. He was the kind of guy who really likes sports and talks about the teams and criticizes the coaches as if he knows them all personally and could do a much better job. He grills bratwursts, fishes and likes Jimmy Buffet. His sons are in fraternities and his daughter is a little slutty and snakes her pony tail through the hole in her baseball cap. Smitty thinks she's a virgin. For vacation Smitty and his wife, who is active in her church although Smitty doesn't attend, go on Carribbean cruises. Smitty likes Fox News and wears Tommy Bahama shirts when he's trying to be cool. At work he pulls his slacks up too high. He also drinks beers on planes and isn't scared of things because he's a man's man who cuts his grass with a push mower, fixes his boat engine and shoots possums in the backyard. Smitty is pretty much everyone's idea of a Dad.

I buckled myself in and things went from bad to worse. The pilot was right - this was the roughest flight I had ever been on and I knew I was going to die. The plane turned completely on its side and I swore that if it rolled that was it, my heart was going to stop. All the stuff fell out of the overhead bins, which I thought were supposed to lock. People were screaming, praying and puking. Outside there was lightning and it just seemed like the pilot couldn't control the plane, which had started to make sounds I certainly never heard before. Then the plane was struck by lightning and the flight turned into a 45 minute long ride on Space Mountain, a ride I don't even like, because we were pitching and rolling, diving and then trying to climb back up with straining engines, something smelled like fuel (probably fuel I'd guess) and all the lights went out.

"We're trying to find somewhere to land," the pilot announced and I took this to me that he was looking for a field or a long stretch of highway, so I knew I was dead. Plus I had diarrhea, because in my life a scary as hell flight is simply not enough. We must add in the possibility of crapping my pants as well, meaning that when they recovered my body from the wreckage, well, I wouldn't be a very dignified corpse. And believe me the irony and parallels to the free movie we had watched two hours prior was not lost on me. There is a really funny diarrhea scene in "Two Weeks Notice." I didn't think my experience was one bit amusing.

I had begun to cry. Normally I rarely cry. I can definitely hold myself together pretty well, but when it comes to a plane ride where the pilot is looking for somewhere to land whatever that means, the plane has been hit by lightning, and people are throwing up anywhere in my vicinity, all bets are off and I'm going to completely lose my shit and have hysterics. I grabbed onto Smitty's arm and bawled something about if he survives to tell my family I loved them very much and if we all die that it was nice knowing him for the past 45 minutes.

"Oh this ain't nothin'" Smitty said, "I been on way worse than this."

Then Smitty began to talk and tell me about his sons in the fraternities and about the part to something that he sold. I think he went through his whole sales pitch. I was concentrating on staying alive and not crapping my pants.

"This is going to be a very rough landing. Please assume the crash position."

May I never hear those words again.

I can't even explain what this landing was like. It was kind of sideways. It was violent. When the plane tossed and jolted it felt like it was slamming onto something solid, so with each lurching lunging plummet I was sure this was it, the plane was breaking apart and was going to explode.

While in the crash position, Smitty hugged me, protecting me with his body and the whole time I was shaking and sobbing he kept saying: "Oh, it ain't so bad. This is nothin'."

And finally we landed. When the plane finally stopped there was total silence. I think none of us knew if we were still alive. A minute later the entire plane collectively burst into tears.

After we disembarked and were informed that we had to spend the night in Atlanta because no planes were allowed to fly in such bad weather. Normally we wouldn't have been allowed to land, but since we had been hit by lightning (with no damage although you could have fooled me) and no other area airports could accomodate our plane, Atlanta let us land there as planned. I suppose that the whole looking for other places to land thing meant that they were trying to divert us to another city, rather than an open field as I had imagined, and that for some reason that didn't work out. I'm not exactly sure what happened. I was just glad I had a friend in Atlanta to come pick me up, take me for pizza and provide me with a clawfoot tub full of lavender bath salts.

On the way out I thanked Smitty.

"You really weren't scared at all?" I asked him.

Smitty chuckled, because he was the kind of man who chuckles.

"I was scared fucking shitless," he said, "but I didn't want to make it worse on you."

Now that, Dear Readers, is a good man, so in the middle of the scariest real life thing that has ever happened to me I still managed to fall into the row of what has to be one of the best people in existence and wherever Smitty is, I thank him still. That is why I didn't change his name.


Anonymous said...

You really know how to pull a person in,,, that was awful (I mean the flight experience). Geez... good lord girl, I might as well have been sitting in the front row of the theater with surround sound and 3-D glasses!

That was an in-your-face Scary Thing. Your shark experience would be more like an after shock kind a scary.

jennifer said...

wow. that was quite intense. I just have no idea what to say, but i guess smitty rocks!

~*~Esmerelda~*~ said...

I started to cry when you said he hugged you and protected you with his body.

I bet he remembers you too, and is grateful he had you to take care of to distract himself from his fear.

Sauntering Soul said...

Holy cow. I would never step foot on a plane again.

I had an eerie flight from Ohio back here to Atlanta once. There were only 3 of us on the whole plane (full size - not one of those puddle jumpers) and the flight attendant gave me my own trash bag and said he would be unable to leave his seat because we were going to have a very rough flight. It was a very rough flight but nothing compared to yours. Yikes.

Hilary said...

Wow.. great story. I may never fly again now, but really amazing tale. Here's to the Smittys in the world.

just kristen said...

You are completely right about the long distance relationship thing. My last boyfriend was long distance and it didn't work out. Coincidentally he actually lived in Milton, DE...

I once flew through a snowstorm and all i remember was that when i looked out the window it looked like tv fuzz. I'm glad it was not accompanied by a tornado though and I'm glad you survived! I wish there were more Smittys in the world.

Anonymous said...

"... but I only have one reader from Utah anyway and I hope that maybe he or she has been excommunicated."

I guess I must be your one reader from Utah. Sorry, I'm not Mormon and thus can't be excommunicated.

Here in Salt Lake we're actually (just slightly) majority non-Mormon. It's certainly an interesting and different environment, though. Outside Salt Lake, yes, it's majority Mormon, reaching extremely high levels as you get more rural.

Wide Lawns said...

Mark!! How nice to meet you, my one reader from Utah! Welcome. I always kinda did want to know you you were.

Whiskeymarie said...

I hear stories like this and am eternally grateful that I am not the one telling the story, because that would mean I could never fly anywhere again.
I have trouble on a "normal" flight with "normal" conditions. My head would have exploded on this one.

Anonymous said...

let me know if you want lift explained using small words

which may take a while, as I'm not sure I understand it

but what good is a physics degree if I can't act all smart with it?

that beats my worst flight, BTW, and I used to fly A LOT

Unknown said...

Holy frijoles! That is the scariest plane ride story I've ever heard of. I don't think anything can top that. Dang, how traumatic that would be! I'd never want to fly again, either. About the diahrrea: my sister has Crohn's disease, and when it hits, it hits. One time she was getting onto a plane and it hit right when they were taking off. The stewardess was being mean to her and not letting her get up to use the bathroom, and when she finally did, they announced over the P.A. that they were waiting to take off for the woman in the bathroom. How completely rude is that?! Anyways, I'm glad you survived and didn't land in a field. And, of course, you had to throw in Jimmy Buffet and Tommy Bahama shirts. I'll have you know that we don't own any Tommy Bahama shirts, nor do we wear our trousers pulled up too high. But we do love us some Jimmy Buffet. :)

Miriam said...

Yay Smitty! I cannot imagine going through that. Oh my goodness. I'm glad you had someone like that to take care of you!

Unknown said...

I'm an ex-Utahn, and am actually a Mormon, you do get 'em outside the state! I'm pretty laid back about it though. I got the missionary zeal out of my system some time ago. But I do recall bothering somebody on my flight home... Hopefully they didn't mind too much.

P.S. It's Moroni, not Moron. I always rather thought if the whole thing was just made up, Joseph would have made up a more dignified name, anyhow.

Wide Lawns said...

Something exploded, Whiskey Marie, but it wasn't my head.

MP said...

that is a GREAT story..although not so great for you at the time..God LOVE Smitty..I hope his family knows how kick ass he is. I hope that if I'm ever in a similar situation I have someone like him by my side.

Anonymous said...

Gak. I'm a former flight attendant and not fussed by flying at all. Still, I would have walked off that plane if we knew in advance it was going to be so rough.

A plane getting struck by lightning isn't such a big deal, though. It happens frequently enough.

Leonesse said...

You gave Smitty something to be brave about and focus on. Go YOU!

Anonymous said...

I too, started crying when he hugged you. I'm still crying, because that is just so great what he did.

My husband and I also had a long distance relationship, by only 3 hours though. We broke up while I was still away (1 week from graduating college and coming home!), and got back together 11 months later. So glad that's over!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I really enjoy reading you. I flew unbuckled once because I got on toward the end and the buckle wouldn't fit me by several inches. I knew I was fat, but never experienced that before. I was so mortified that I struggled to ask the attendant for an extension and she told me after we do our demo. Well she was flying with friends and I tried to wave to her and she ignored me, so I gave up. I was depressed as hell and thought "if I die, I die and no one will care anyway." The skinny guy next to me knew and I braced myself a lot and the bravest thing I did was not break down and cry. Later someone told me that the guy next to me had my hook up and that's why mine wouldn't stretch. They say you can't fly and not be belted in, and I'm living proof that they don't really care and that you can. It was less than 2 years ago for the record.

Anonymous said...

I used to fly A LOT by myself since I was 7 to visit my father. Recently some friends and I were on a flight back from Vegas and the plane was jolting around a bit and my friend just leaned in and had this sheer look of terror on her face. I told her it was no big deal, just going through some clouds. It really wasn't a big deal but just seeing someone freaking out made my mind go to the worst possible scenario. Anyway, some guy in the row in front of us kept saying it was nothing, he'd been on a flight that all the lights in the cabin went out and the plane was rolling all around. NOT something I want to hear while experiencing some turbulence mid-flight.

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