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Memoir: Bad night for a breezy flight (Revised Version)
October 17, 2011, 8:31 pm
Filed under: Papers

My summer vacation in Orlando was officially over the minute I stepped inside the JetBlue terminal; I had never been in one this silent. There were no kids running around, no people with huge bags fighting to get their suitcases aboard, no nonsense whatsoever; the terminal was as calm as a baby after sobbing his way to sleep. To make things even worse, it was a moonless night. The only light sources came from the tall lampposts and the small side lights that illuminated the airstrip. I wondered why there was not enough lighting during this night – the night I was flying; I had chosen the worse night possible to fly back to Ponce. I tried to put every detail that made the flight frightening behind me, and I was being successful, until what I’d being fearing happened: I heard a jumbled voice coming from all the speakers around the terminal that said “All passengers with destination to Ponce, Puerto Rico, please proceed aboard.” My heart raced with panic; I was completely frightened, like I always am. Flying is not really my thing.

I stepped inside the plane with my duffel bag and chewed on a piece of gum. My mother always told me that chewing gum during flights helped reduce the pressure of your ears, so I gave it a try. All this time, I kept thinking on my past experiences: those terrible moments in which the safe sensation of being close to the ground is changed for long hours of commercial air travel in which I step on nowhere. I tried to hush this thought out of my mind as I made my way around the skinny aisle of the airbus. Once I found my seat – the 4A; which seemed comfortable, even for me – I felt a lot better. It was a window seat and I thought, if anything were to go wrong, at least I could see what was coming. Realizing that I was again thinking about how bad the flight could go, I knew it was going to be a very long and torturous flight. I sat, buckled up immediately and a loud “boing” was heard on the plane, followed by a message that sounded robot-like. “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We like to welcome you onboard this JetBlue flight from Orlando to Ponce. Flight duration is around two hours and twenty-five minutes and we have excellent visibility and weather conditions are normal, thus we expect a fairly smooth flight today. On behalf of myself and the crew for the Flight 456, we thank you for choosing JetBlue Airlines and we hope you enjoy your flight.” I felt relief beyond my own established limits as I heard the words “fairly”, “smooth” and “flight” used in the same sentence. I relaxed a bit and tried to “enjoy” the flight, which of course was impossible.

Less than an hour aboard and about thirty thousand miles overhead the Caribbean Sea, my greatest fear materialized in the form of a Seat Belt Sign, followed by the same loud “boing” as before. I’ve always hated that sign, not to mention that annoying sound, for I knew what they both represented; that annoying sensation that accompanied turbulence: loss of gravity. Once again, the captain spoke: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re about to experience some minor turbulence. Please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts. We’ll get back to you as soon as the episode of turbulence is behind us. Once again we thank you for choosing JetBlue Airlines.” I don’t think I had enough courage inside of me to stay calm. The words “smooth” and “flight” kept popping on my mind, as if any of them could be of any use. Before I could even realize what was happening, I felt it. A sudden loss of gravity struck me directly on my stomach, which tossed and turned as I began to sweat. This sensation lasted for about five minutes – which in turbulence time is about two hours – and all this time I kept praying and hoping for survival. The turbulence began to lesser more and more until tranquility came back into the plane.

Finally the pilot spoke again (that “boing” kept popping unexpectedly) and his words were like therapy to me – the kind you can only get for forty dollars an hour from a psychologist. “Ladies and Gentleman, we’ve passed the turbulence and clear skies are ahead of us. We don’t expect any major turbulence for the rest of this flight therefore feel free to walk around the cabin and relax. Once again we thank you for choosing JetBlue Airlines.” The turbulence was over: it was finally over. I couldn’t believe it. I had just survived the longest five minutes of my life. An hour later, the pilot addressed us once again (yes, the “boing” was heard, although I didn’t hear it quite clearly that time), this instance to let us know we we’re five minutes away from the destination. The joy I felt once I sighted my little island was unimaginable; joy that was undeniably partly because of the proximity to ground.

This experience was the cherry on top of a big sundae of memories I have from previous flights. I dislike flying. My reason is very simple: I hate the feeling of losing gravity, that horrible sensation of feeling like I’m about to fall because I can’t step firmly on the ground. I compare this feeling to that awkward moment when you wake up from a dream in which you feel like you’re falling and, instinctively you kick a leg just to find the floor. I’m not sure whether is a security thing or if I had experiences as a boy that marked for life. What I’m completely sure of is that flying will never become any easier of an experience to me.

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