Facts And Factions

Entry by: Freya

3rd February 2017
Facts and factions

I dream of the world where planes can no longer fly. But, I don’t want them broken or delayed. I want them grounded forever, mildewed, covered with dust, forgotten in their hangars or best never invented. Skies for the birds. No Icarus, no brothers Wright. Men are to be walkers and sailors in this world, never pilots. Perhaps a frightful god forbids gliding through the clouds. Or maybe flying is considered unhealthy, expensive or plain boring. Any good enough reason would do to bury the planes and never resurrect them.

Fact 1: Worldwide commercial aircraft fleet counts 20,000 planes.

I sigh, shifting my head towards my companions filling the departure lounge, thousands of people crammed in a small space, some excited, other nervous, all equally distracted. A perfect prey for a terrorist attack. I sigh again. There’ve been many radical plots put in motion at international airports. The flying business thrives nonetheless.

I’m still here, my chocolate-brown carry-on samsonite snuggling down my feet like a faithful Labrador. I pat it as if glancing at it wasn’t enough. I need to touch it to be certain I didn’t leave it at home.

‘Eyes often deceive the onlooker,’ my anxious mini-me’s reassure so that I don’t feel weird that I engage in a compulsion.

‘I am a mistress of my own breath,’ I murmur. ‘Hold the breath in for twenty-five seconds, then slowly release, and then draw again.’

Fact 2: There are 3300 planes in the air right now, with 660,000 people on board, and over 3 million people on average flying each day around the world.

‘How lovely it is to be able to breathe. The clean air awakens your senses; it rejuvenates your every cell,’ my new age mini-me’s chime in my ears like the tiny bells attached to a pair of sleighs. ‘Now, squeeze the earth amulet three times.’

The boarding has started. I open and shut my passport ten times to check that the boarding pass is there. Was it my row number that they called? 11, it reads. Was it 11 or 10? Check again. Here we go. I push the bag ahead of me. It rolls smoothly on the linoleum.

‘Hurry, hurry!’ my anxious mini-me’s shout, as if the plane was to close its door midway throughout the boarding.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, due to the lack of haste on your part we were forced to stop boarding, with row 10 the last allowed to board. Passengers who took their time to get to the door, we are sorry about your loss and wish you a safe journey home.’ I wonder if this is the message my anxious mini-me’s fear?

The intellectual mini-me’s know it would never happen and they just stare at anxious mini-me’s with disdain.

I will get on this bloody plane and grin at the flight attendant as if I couldn’t wait to be in the air, I decide.

‘You need to smile and pretend everything is fine. Never trouble others with your problems. It is unprofessional not to smile at the flight attendant,’ my middle-class mini-me’s add in a patient tone, they speak in a unison. None is ready to come before the crowd.

Row 11, aisle, of course.

‘You may need a toilet urgently,’ the anxious mini-me's tremble at the mere thought.

‘I never do!’

‘In the unlikely event of emergency landing, you will be the first in your row to run for the exit,’ the anxious mini-me’s insist.

‘If there’s an accident, we’re all gonna die,’ the fatalist mini-me’s throw in resigned voices.

Fact 4: Odds of being killed on a single airline flight are 1 in 4.7 million.

What I hate most about flying is the noise in my head. All the factions of my ego argue. Their discussions are often so fierce that I have no choice but to shake and hyperventilate.

‘The aisle seat choice is an attempt to take control in a situation when there’s none. Only the pilot remains in control when you’re on board the plane,’ the intellectual mini-me’s clarify in their Oxbridge accent. They are all bespectacled, sitting one by one in their professional grey suits. Tiny minions, standing side by side in groups of five or ten. They only dare to speak loud when they build a faction of like-minded mini-me’s. They are all like that.

Fact 5: In situations when we have little external control, we should apply internal control instead. We can decide how or when to react.

I swallow hard hearing the roar of the plane’s engine. I turn to my co-passengers. A middle-aged, slender, cracker-like man rests beside me, his whole attention on the Bible in his lap. He does have an ascetic look of a vicar.

‘Better the Bible than the Quran,’ the xenophobic mini-me’s eye the man’s bitten fingernails with suspicion.

By the window, a teenager with a tattoo of a black widow spider on his underarm chews on a Big Mac. The vicar presses a linen handkerchief to his nose, his lips now curved in disgust. I sniff the plasticy mayo-meat aroma.

‘I wouldn’t dare to eat junk food before the trip,’ the hipster mini-me’s turn their tiny noses. ‘So much gluten. Yak.’

‘That’s why I always choose the aisle seat. One needs to be prepared for any eventuality while flying,’ the anxious mini-me’s shake their heads two times to the right side. I discern the beginning of the Tourette’s syndrome.

‘In emergency, the Big Mac eater needs to be watched. He may jump over us and be the first to the exit,’ the competitive mini-me’s scheme.

I reach to my handbag for a Xanax.

‘Don’t choke, dear. Drink plenty of water. Sip the crystal-clear drops, savour their goodness,’ the new-age mini me’s like to have the last word.

Soon, all the mini-me’s dissolve, their nagging first turning to murmur and then to blissful silence.

I am all alone now. A single me. A me that doesn’t care. Live or die, no matter. A drugged, indifferent me will ignore the turbulence. It will sleep with one eye open. And, it will survive the trip. Most air travels end well, but if this one doesn’t, the xanaxed me won’t notice. Its large watery eyes will shut for good and then there will be nothing. No more planes. No need to fly ever again.

Fact 6: As many as 30% of people fear flying, and up to 10% of people at any point in time suffer from aviophobia.