Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Final Jeopardy

Another round of Hepatitis A vaccinations.

It's weird, because I've traveled quite a bit in my life but every once in a while I get hit with a bout of travel jitters. That slight heaviness of anxiety and trepidation that comes when you wonder if, maybe, this might be the time the odds catch up to you.

It hasn't actually happened to me in years, but back in the day, there were times when my nervousness over flying actually caused me to push a departure day back a day or two.

I don't know why because flying is statistically safer than driving - especially my driving. But with about 44 hours before my flight takes off, I'm feeling a bit apprehensive. I once had a dream about being in a plane crash. It wasn't pleasant, but I say "dream" instead of "nightmare" because I didn't wake up scared.

Over half a million miles and most of the die hard travelers around me seem to be doing the same thing: the nonchalance of sitting there sipping your pre-flight beverage feigning boredom and a "oh, it's just another day flying" kind of attitude. Meanwhile, I wonder if they're also like me: pretending, while secretly wondering is this might be the day we plummet to the ground in a crumpled mass of flesh and aluminum. Morbid: yes.

I comfort myself with the thought that at an flight level altitude between 35,000 to 41,000 feet, the pilots have five miles to correct whatever problem might occur over that cold and vast North Atlantic. Plenty of time to address a situation. Maybe.

My itinerary has me flying a Boeing 777 across the Atlantic, an Airbus A340 down to Addis Ababa and then a two hour flight through darkness in a DeHavilland Dash-8 turboprop. Overall, it should be a pleasant enough trip - though the Dash8 doesn't offer premium seating, of which I fear the most.

The height of falling aside, I also comfort myself with the thought that the airlines are notoriously cheap. Forget all the amenities that have gone away over the years, the airlines are cheap enough that they A) don't want to lose airplanes because they cost millions, and B) they don't want to pay penalties, fines, legal costs and compensation to bereaved relatives. Not to mention the bad press and it's in their financial interest to land their passengers safely.

I often wonder why some of the other frequent flyers like to line up in the premium queue an hour before the flight. You know who I'm talking about: those strange folks (usually in a suit) standing on that tiny red carpet wanting to be the first on the plane.

Me? I've got little interest in being stuffed into an aluminum tube that may just take me to my demise. I like to be the last person on the plane. I'll wait until final call.

Deep down inside, I understand. Faced with the constant possibility of checking out in a fiery ball, we want to feel a little pampered. Ensconced in some semblance of civility and calm, as opposed to the mass huddle happening in coach.

So that maybe, as we plummet to the earth clenching our seventh "free" cocktail, after eating a four course meal, sitting in our leather-bound, lay flat reclining chair, we'll feel some semblance of comfort...

Meanwhile, I've got my vaccination card up-to-date, my bags to be packed and a healthy optimism that the airlines don't want to lose any more money!