The Problem with Planes and the Politics of the Nervous Flier

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a nervous flier. I don’t really think somebody’s gonna bomb the plane or we’re gonna do a nosedive into the nearest body of water, but I lose sight of my rationality once I get past the creepy security guard with the lisp or the giantess female security guard with the slightly hairy upper lip. Admit it, the people at the airport, particularly O’Hare aren’t the friendliest or the most appealing lot. But even when I get past that, a strange fear has already taken ahold of me. As I get to the boarding gate, I survey the people around me. I take in the sights, before sitting in a corner by myself and resigning myself to my laptop. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-social (well, maybe I am, but at least not all the time) but there’s something different about personal interaction in an airport. It seems so forced and unpleasant. Everyone’s on edge, I know I can’t be the only one.
By the time boarding has begun, I’ve successfully shut out everyone around me. Nothing like being crammed into a plane to remind you how tranquility can be so easily shattered. The sounds of mothers scolding their children, and babies crying, all while the flight attendants encourage all patrons to store their carry-ons in the overhead compartments or under the seats in front of them… there’s only so loud that an iPod can go…
Easily the most nerve wracking part of the voyage is counting the seats as they go back. As the seats go further and further back I hope to God that the person that I think is sitting next to me is just in the wrong seat. Now, I know this may make me sound like a terrible person, but I prefer to say I’m “particular” because it makes it sound a helluva lot nicer than what it is. There are a variety of people that I could end up being sat next to, but there are only a couple that I dread more than others.
First and probably most obnoxious is the talker. There’s always the polite introductions and obligatory discussion about the weather or where the other party is headed to, but then, by the time you take off and you’re allowed to use your iPod, you’re stuck in a forced conversation. Conversation lags and is entirely and awkwardly silent at some parts, but still, there’s this need to revitalize the conversation by any means possible. Frequently, this is managed by pictures of children and grandchildren and the occasional anecdote about their various successes. Not to be rude, but I don’t care if little Susie said the cutest thing the other day. Tell it Kids Say the Darnedest Things or at least someone who can feign interest, but these stories are often interrupted by yawns on my part and the overwhelming urge to fall asleep mid-sentence. However, I have one advantage being a 21 year old traveler. I never thought I’d say it, but I have school on my side. As soon as the other party expresses an interest in having a conversation, I pull out the heaviest textbook I have and claim that I have a lot of reading to do for class. Whether I actually read or not is irrelevant, but it’s all in how you sell the lie, which is why I either recommend the heaviest of the one with the most complex title.
To be continued…


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