Archived Story

Please return your nerves to their upright position

Published 12:40pm Sunday, August 11, 2013

If ignorance is bliss, distraction is comfort.

In early August I took to the skies for my first flight since I was around age 5. It didn’t help that I flew alone, meaning I had no one to guide me through the shakes and bumps of flying. As I had told the friend I was visiting before I flew, “I’d be much better off if you could keep music on during takeoff and landing.”

Shortly after turning off my phone before takeoff, I realized the screens on the back of each headrest were fair game for movies, television shows and music. I found the first album I recognized — “Overgrown” by James Blake — and blasted it into my headphones as the plane took off from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Once in the air I found a standup routine by Jim Gaffigan, which proved delightfully distracting during air travel — though my mix of nervousness and laughs at the standup may have worried the two strangers I sat between. I played My Morning Jacket during landing, and I was convinced I could easily pull off air travel.

The return flight wasn’t as kind, as the plane featured older seats that didn’t have the personal screens — meaning no music, television or other distractions until cruising altitude.

From the moment the plane lifted off from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the plane was shaking with frequent turbulence.

Without the past experience to confirm it was normal bouncing and no musical distractions, I took to dissecting and analyzing every bump and shake. Not a recipe for peace of mind. I resorted to a string of self pep talks that were the mental equivalent of Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone in “The Godfather” slapping a pouting Johnny Fontane and shouting “You can act like a man.”

Looking back, the plane was never in any danger, and frequent fliers are likely to chuckle at the turbulence and my nervousness.

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