I clearly remember my first airplane ride. It was in my last year of high school, and instead of taking the the usual mainstream trip to Lloret Del Mar (Costa Brava, Spain), my friends and I decided to go to Italy. I was both really excited and really afraid.
I packed my bags a week early and every day I would add something more to my case. We were non-stop talking about our trip. I went through the security rules for airports and airplanes a hundred times, just so I wouldn’t miss anything.
The day finally arrived. My mom drove me and one of my friends to the airport. We got there early, as usual, because my mother is English and she never runs late—English punctuality and all.
After my mother left, we went outside for a while to have a smoke and wait for the rest of the group. From where we stood we could see every plane taking off. I was mesmerized. The planes were so close to us; I almost could feel their wind. My mesmerization was also tinged with a fear that a plane might crash at any time.
I couldn’t take it anymore so we went back inside. I decided I needed to grab some candy and some chocolate before the flight. They always help to calm me down.
As I ate, I couldn’t help noticing the people around me—they all seemed so calm like it was just another day. I just couldn’t understand their states of peace.
Finally, the rest of the group arrived. We kissed and hugged each other, the usual greeting. They checked their bags while my friend and I waited next to a mini-bar which served a really good kind of ice-tea. Orange, as I recall.
Then, we all went to the gate. My legs were shaking and I thought I was going to throw up. But no, I stood there like a “man” (not literally of course) and faced reality.
We were about to board the plane. My friends were all laughing and joking around with each other like it was no big deal, and I walked right behind them terrified to death.
Once we got into plane and found our seats, I could only do one thing: look for the lifebuoys and the oxygen masks!
Everyone was inside and the pilot began to say something, but I didn’t pay much attention—I was looking through the window so I wouldn’t be sick. That’s when I heard the engines starting. My eyes popped open wide, I took a really deep breath, my back got stuck to the chair, and my hands squeezed my friend’s arm tight.
I felt the plane moving and I could only think to myself God will not let me die, God will not let me die. I closed my eyes and took slow breaths in order not to hyperventilate.
Ten minutes later I was myself again. I wasn’t afraid anymore. I started to relax; I even read a book and talked to my friends. I remember falling asleep for a while too. And in no time we were in Italy. Rome sweet Rome.
In retrospect, I realize how irrational I had been. But what could I have done differently? I’d heard so many terrible stories about plane crashes. Now, each time I think back to this very first flight, I can only laugh at my old self.