I was raised Catholic so I carry several coin sized medals in my wallet depicting saints, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ, more like a superstitious child carries a rabbit foot than as a symbol of my beliefs. I also have a set of rosewood Buddhist prayer beads that I wear around my neck as a necklace and a talisman; I have to make sure all of my bases are covered.
I settle into my seat for the two hour flight from Atlanta to New York with my boyfriend to my right and a pretentious stranger to my left. I love the middle seat, it’s a good omen and since I am on the small side I have more than enough space.
I fasten my seatbelt and open the SkyMall while the flight attendant in the video goes over the plane’s safety features and tells me what do to in the event of a water landing. While I understand the point of the video, it does nothing to stem the nervousness moving up through my stomach getting trapped in my throat and finally making its way to my face and hands. I hear the familiar whirr of the engine and grab hold of the armrest with one hand and dig the fingers of my other hand into my boyfriend’s arm.
“Just breathe. You’re fine.” He whispers into my ear as I press my face into his chest.
I’m not fine, but I will be.
The plane stops climbing and the seatbelt light goes off alerting us passengers that we are now free to move about the cabin and use all approved electronic devices. Breathing a momentary sigh of relief, I reach into my purse that doubles as a carry on and find my iPod and a travel-worn paperback that has been sitting in my purse unfinished, waiting for this exact moment. I put on something up-tempo—no one ever died listening to Vampire Weekend—and I turn to the dogeared page in my book. From the corner of my eye I can see the man to my left pull out his laptop and open some kind of chat. I begin to read furiously to keep the thoughts rising in my head at bay. I turn to my boyfriend.
“Can he do that? Won’t that mess with the plane’s instruments or something? Why aren’t they telling him to stop that? You’re not supposed to be online.” The words rush out like water from an open faucet.
“It’s ok. They just tell you not to do that because it’s a distraction not because it will suddenly send the plane into a free fall. Relax. You’re fine, if something was wrong I would tell you.”
I resume reading intently, focusing on every single word. Then we hit a patch of mild turbulence. It's mild according to my well-traveled boyfriend; it's extreme for me. I immediately put my book down: no one ever died reading a book, but if I am going to die on this plane the last thing I want to be reading is something about being ravaged and burned. I grab my iPod and change the soundtrack to something more mellow, in the hopes of calming my mounting anxiety. I am not in full-tilt panic mode, but am close—so I grab the SkyMall again and begin tearing through the descriptions of things that no one ever needs but people feel compelled to spend money on. Once I am close to calm I look around the cabin and see the flight attendant passing out drinks, and I know the flight is at least half way over. I’ve flown to and from New York five times in the past three years, and I can determine distance based on flight attendant actions. This is when I see my saving grace: a priest and a rabbi—not sitting together, of course; that would be a very different kind of story. I take my soda water and plane cookies and relax: holy people don’t die in plane crashes.
Thirty minutes later we land safely at La Guardia, make our way to our hotel in Soho, and I put the events of the flight far out of my mind...until we begin to pack for our return trip, at which point I have to locate my medals, my beads, my book, my Dramamine, the perfect soundtrack, soda water, and two holy men all over again.
Anastasia Nicole Simon is a writer, both real and blog, living in Atlanta for now. Her work has appeared on Haute Living Atlanta, Skirt!, and M.I.S.S. to name a few. She only flies when she has to.