The woman sitting in front of me had the face of a rat. She appeared to have no top lip, her front teeth sticking out of her mouth like a rodent’s. Her eyes were completely black and her skin was pulled tightly over her skull. It was like looking at some Dorian Gray portrait of a regular person; she looked to only be about forty, and forty-year-old people aren’t supposed to look deceased. This was on the airplane, on my flight back home from Myanmar; the rat woman stood up every ten minutes or so, lazily examining the plane as though it was a maze she was stuck in.
I was in a bad mood, to say the least. I’ve always had a fear of flying, but on this particular flight, I was terrified. I’m not sure why, really. The turbulence wasn’t much worse than any normal flight and the stewardesses were above average looking. I should have been fine. Maybe it was the shear amount of flying that I’d done in the past few weeks that had finally worn me down. Traveling between Africa, Myanmar, and China, I had taken a whopping twelve flights over the previous three weeks. That’s an average of four flights a week. For a person with a fear of flying, that schedule is brutal. It’s kind of like being afraid of clowns and then getting gangbanged by an entire circus. By the midpoint of the flight, I was covered in sweat and my stomach was knotted up like a balloon animal.
Everything about the flight got on my nerves. The people sitting in the row in front of me – the rat, its husband, and their offspring – kept standing up constantly and talking loudly. A few times the plane hit patches of rough air and the stewardess would come over and tell them to sit, but they’d just keep standing up and yelling to each other. I couldn’t take it. Behind me, there was a little girl, five or six years old, who had formed a hobby out of kicking the back of my seat. I stared out the window and imagined the plane going down in flames.
“Only about an hour left,” my girlfriend, sitting next to me, said. Her words were supposed to make me feel better. The intended effect was for me to go, “Great. Only an hour.” But instead I thought, “Shoot me. I’ll never make it through an hour of this. I might as well give up and try my luck jumping out with a parachute.”
Nothing in life can be perfectly easy, I suppose. I love to travel – I really love it, more than anything else. But to do what I love, I am forced to fly, which I hate. And I’m getting worse on flights, disintegrating from the somewhat irritating paranoid doofus that I used to be into the intolerably whiny little ninny that I am now. I know I’m being silly, sweating and shaking and cursing through the flight, but I just can’t stop myself. I guess it’s like having Tourette’s. I tell myself to be cool, and then the plane hits a dip and I explode with expletives.
A couple hours earlier, during take off, there was an unfortunate incident with a group of foreigners a few rows behind us. They had been told to turn their cell phones off during take off, and they refused. Flat out said no. The stewardess kept being polite and asking them over and over and they were so argumentative before finally giving in. The entire ordeal pissed me off. I couldn’t understand why they were so rude, especially since they were told they just had to wait fifteen minutes and then they could turn the phones back on. Looking into the darkness outside the window, less than an hour left to fly, I thought about them and let myself be filled with venom, the brash bravado of those foreigners – what kind of monsters were they?
Didn’t they know that their cell phones could cause the auto pilot to shut off and send us all spiralling down towards earth?
I felt so disappointed with myself. Because I really felt anger, and because I really truly believed their cell phones would kill me. Then I thought that if the plane actually did crash, would it really be a bad thing? For the rest of world, I mean. In a selfish way, of course it would be – none of us want to die. But those people…the family in front of me unable to sit and be quiet, the crazy little girl kicking my seat like a lunatic, the cell-phone addicted foreigners…maybe the world would be better off without them. Even me, actually. No one likes a neurotic weirdo wishing death upon people. So, yeah. Although the death of my girlfriend would be a real loss for the world, the net result of a crash would be overall positive. Mankind would benefit from the subtraction. The idea calmed me a little.
Wanting to distract myself, I turned on my MP3 player. I chose to listen to the song “Death” by White Lies.
I love the feeling when we lift off/
Watching the world so small below/
I love the dreaming when I think of/
The safety in the clouds out my window/
I wonder what keeps us so high up/
Could there be love beneath these wings?/
If we suddenly fall should I scream out/
Or keep very quiet and cling to my mouth as I’m crying/
So frightened of dying/
Relax, yes, I’m trying/
But fear’s got a hold on me.
I turned the volume way up. My heart beat. It’s kind of like being in on a joke. A crash can’t be that terrifying, right, not as long as you’re so amazingly self-aware.