Am I sitting in a tin can

27 10 2010

My sister is not a crier.

Okay, yes, she has a sentimental streak and will tear up at matters involving her daughters or family generally, and she is far more expressive with her [non-angry] emotions than I ever will be. She’s normal, in other words.

But when I say she’s not a crier, I mean: she’s not someone to fall apart if things don’t go well or if there’s any sort of crisis. Instead, she switches into hyper-practical let’s-fix-this-mode, and then gets on with it.

She was crying when she called me.

V. was planning to visit me this weekend, flying in tonight and out on Monday. She’s flown before, but she hates it—really, really, really hates it as only someone who is terrified can hate a thing—so it was a big deal when she decided to fly here alone.

She might have made it, too, had it not been for the 60-80 mph windstorms which streaked across the upper midwest last night, windstorms which, not coincidentally, led to widespread flight delays across the region.

The flight tonight probably would have been delayed, too, but the weather on the ground in NYC has simply been a fizzle of gray and rain. She would have been fine.

But if you’re terrified of flying under even the best of conditions, to hear 24 hours before your flight about how awful the wind is and how much turbulence it’s kicking up, to think all day long at work about that wind and turbulence and having not only to fly into to NYC but back out, well, then, whatever equilibrium you’ve managed to convince yourself you could maintain is likely to dissolve into tears at an exit off the highway.

I’m not thrilled with flying—don’t (surprise!) like the feeling of being trapped—but it doesn’t panic me. Had it been me flying today, I’d have gotten on the plane.

But it wasn’t me, it was my steady, normal, practical, terrorized sister.

I felt so bad for her. She said it was a good thing my number was preprogrammed into her cell phone, because she was shaking so bad she probably couldn’t have dialed it. She said she felt stupid—and my sister never ever shames herself—not least because one daughter flew to Australia for a semester abroad and another to Austria for a series of musical performances, and I can’t even do a two-hour flight.

It’s okay, I told her. I’m not going anywhere, so it’s not like you missed out on your only chance to visit me in NYC. And I wouldn’t want you to spend your entire weekend worried about the flight home.

Let’s chalk it up to the weather, we agreed. Had it not been for the freak tree-bending winds, she could have done it.

So I hope my steady, practical, cheerful sister doesn’t let the anxiety which detoured her from the airport derail a nice, long weekend at home with her husband.

Go out to dinner with D., I suggested. Get the New York Strip.

She laughed. It was a good sign.


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5 responses

27 10 2010
Expressmom

Wow! You are a great sister. I wish I could say I would have responded as nobly as you did. I would have been LIVID, but hopefully not let my sister know that! It’s so hard to empathize with someone else’s phobia, as they seem so irrational. Unless you are the phobic one,,, in that case, it makes perfect sense.

Good luck to you & sissy!

27 10 2010
dmf

planet earth is blue but sounds like all is well that ends with the absurd family, nothing but suffering to be found in phobias and no good reason for suffering, there will be another day.

28 10 2010
absurdbeats

@Expressmom: This had nothing to do with nobility. V. was well and truly terrified, and reacting with anything other than sympathy would have just been mean. I knew she had issues with flying and was pleased that she was willing to give it a go; the bad weather was just too much to overcome.

And yeah, I have mild claustrophobia, so I know that some fears do not yield to reason.

@dmf: And she would have suffered—there’s no way she could have relaxed and enjoyed herself. If only there were a high-speed train between NY and Milwaukee (or at least, Chicago). . . .

31 10 2010
BenjaminTheAss

Don’t know if you noticed, but a few days ago I started a second, “Ass-ociates” blogroll, of which you are an inaugural member. Cheers!

1 11 2010
geekhiker

I’ve never been afraid of flying. My Dad flew small planes when I was a kid, so I know what the plane is generally doing when it’s in the air, and how hard it actually is to knock a commercial plane out of the air.

That said, I never dismiss someone’s fear of flying, no matter the cause. Flying is, fundamentally, a not-normal thing to do. For all of human history, being off the ground is generally a not good thing (i.e., you’re falling to your death), so it’s perfectly understandable that some people may just not be comfortable with it. Everything in our innate survival knowledge says “this is wrong”.

I think your sister should be proud of herself. Heck, with winds like that, I know some pilots who would be, if not scared, thinking that flying into those kinds of winds would be a profoundly uncomfortable flight!

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