I once knew a man who was afraid of the possibility of seeing Richard Branson eating a bicycle. Even at the thought of it he would shudder, break out in a cold sweat and scream, “I just don’t know why he’d do it? What’s in it for him?”. I’ve since had a word with my father, who’s involved in statistics, and he informed me that the odds of this happening, let alone of this man witnessing Richard Branson in the act, are low. Thus, this is evidently an irrational fear. It just goes to show that we don’t choose our fears; our fears choose us.
Personally however, I believe that any human worth their salt should actively choose one fear: flying. If you’ve any shred of decency about you, the prospect of being sucked through the air in a winged metal sausage should fill you with bowel-quivering dread. If not, you’re either a rattling lunatic or some kind of Evil Kinevel-Lite who enjoys nothing more than staring Death in the face, telling him that black robes aren’t as slimming as he might think they are, before intentionally getting his name wrong and saying ‘see ya later Beth’. Fear is there to protect us from danger. Fear is natural. Flying is not.
What with it being in that strange period at the start of the year when there is nothing really meaningful to look forward to for the next few months, many of you will already be planning J1’s or sundry other holidays, and some of you may have a similar disdainful attitude to the skies. If so, I’ve compiled something of a list of 8 pieces of information to help you cope with those terrifying, but worryingly necessary journeys in the clouds.
Preparation. As a now disgraced ex-boy scout (details withheld for legal reasons) I have long been aware of the scouting mantra ‘always be prepared’. However, it is not just advice for setting fire to tiny bundles of sticks, tying knots or administering woefully inept first aid, it is useful advice for everything in life. As such, in anticipation of a disaster leading to us plummeting from the sky, I’ve made it something of a ritual on each flight to stitch together a sort of improvised parachute out of napkins; the coats and scarves of adjacent passengers and complimentary in-flight magazines. That way, if disaster’s looming, I’ll get ‘chuting.
Safety. If you’ve ever seen an action or disaster movie with Bruce Willis, there’s usually a scene where he’ll save a plane full of people from certain destruction by fighting off the potential ne’er-do-wells on board. So, when boarding a plane, I find it comforting to locate the nearest muscle-bound bald man, and do a bit of seat-swapping so that I’m perched nearby. If anything does go wrong, you can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that you’ve a front row seat to be saved by your beefy, bald seat neighbour from whatever rabble-rousing so-and-so’s are on board.
Reassurance. No matter how stressed or worried you may be, it’s always handy to keep an eye on those who are more used to flying than you. The cabin crew are invaluable for this. They’re your canaries down the figurative mine- though usually they are featherless, uniform-clad, wielding a drinks trolley and human. If they are going about their business, then assume everything’s fine. Or, better still, constantly pester them asking questions like “everything’s alright isn’t it?” or “the plane isn’t going to crash is it?”. They will either eventually upgrade you to first class to avoid further distressing the surrounding passengers, or provide you with powerful sedatives.
Sedatives. Sedatives, while definitely on the extreme end of things, can help if your fear of flying is really getting the better of you. To reap the full benefits of these slumber-inducing pills of wonder, simply slip some sedatives into your pilot’s beverage of choice some 30 minutes or so before take-off. That way you can be sure, as the plane lies idling on the runway and desperate paramedics frantically waft smelling salts under your unconscious pilot’s nose, you’ll be staying safely on the ground for another day.
Turbulence. For the fearful traveller, encountering turbulence is often the most actively frightening part of a flight. Though, as a fellow passenger once informed me, the stresses induced on the plane by even the most severe turbulence are nowhere near strong enough to cause a crash. Instead, she informed me, a plane was far more likely to be damaged by a bird-strike- a rogue bird being sucked into an engine on take-off or landing. Good god.
Birds. Ever since this lady passenger further ruined my life, I have developed something of a personal vendetta against birds. Once an ally, now a feathery foe that must be remorselessly crushed beneath our iron fist lest they destroy us all. In an attempt to ensure my own safety, it has now become second nature to me to arrive some hours prior to my flight’s departure and surreptitiously attach scarecrows to the plane’s wings to ward off those beaked bastards. I like to think the detrimental impact to the plane’s aerodynamics is far outweighed by the boon to its bird-scaring abilities. The pilots, often furious and yelling having discovered the shackled scarecrows, strongly disagree. If this happens to you too and you wish to placate these angry pilots, see the point on sedatives.
Statistics. Statistically if you are in a plane, you are more likely to be in a plane crash. Every other statistic they may try tell you about supposed safety standards is irrelevant.
Surprise. To again take a trope from a disaster movie, disaster always seems to strike when a group of people are at their happiest, at their most complacent so that it is all the more poignant when the tragedy befalls them. As such, it is advisable to maintain a high base level of anxious worry for the duration of the flight to try counter-balance the dangerous nonchalance of your fellow non-flying-fearing travellers. If something does go wrong, you can bellow, loudly and proudly, over their terrified screams, ‘I knew it!’, safe in the knowledge that at least, you will die vindicated in your fear.
Fellow panicked traveller you too are now prepared, take these words of wisdom and go- go look into getting a ferry or some alternate modes of transport, it’s far better.