”I’m afraid of aeroplanes,
Even though I like the way
It feels to be a person in the sky…”
A320 Foo Fighters
I don’t like to fly.
We know this, I know– we’ve discussed it before. It’s something I’ve been working on, and a fear I think I’m in control of.
But I still pray every single freaking time I get on a plane. Actually, prayer never seems to quite be enough– during turbulence I often wish I was Catholic, so I knew how to say a Hail Mary or something else appropriate, without stuffing it up and acting like a blasphemous idiot.
Religion aside, it seems I’ll soon be spending an as-yet-undetermined length of time on a plane in just a few months time, winging it all the way to Borneo. And back. Cross country trips to Melbourne are one thing. International flights are totally something else.
In an attempt to lessen my own anxiety, I’ve made a slightly obsessive habit of researching aeroplanes and aeroplane safety. Some of the stuff I’ve discovered is fascinating.
And a lot of it is just damn… terrifying. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I question the sanity behind my own thinking that ‘knowledge is power’, and the more I knew the less afraid I’d be.
But, perversely, that theory has actually worked. A least if the plane does come down in the ocean, or come down in a field, or catch fire in the middle of the tarmac… I’ll be prepared.
Whatever. Anyway– I figured, in the spirit of sharing, I’d fill you all in on what I’ve learned. The comforting, the terrifying, and the urban mythologies.
The brace position is not designed to snap your neck. Rumour has it, a la the movie Fight Club, that the brace position is designed to effectively snap your neck on impact, thereby killing you quickly. So as not to leave a planeload of horribly injured moaning passengers wandering around the crash site. Because really, that would be a PR disaster.
That one’s not true. But there is a very correct way to ‘brace’. If you look closely at the (remarkably un-detailed) infographic on your aeroplane safety card, you’ll see either both hands tucked under the poor doomed passenger’s legs, or one hand placed over the other on the poor doomed passenger’s head. Left hand over right hand, if you’re right-handed, or vice-versa. Why…? Because if all that luggage contained in the overhead compartments does come piling down on top of you, you’ll want at least one set of unbroken fingers with which to unbuckle your seatbelt.
Speaking of seatbelts– they’re stupid. It’s apparently extremely common for passengers who have to ditch the plane to lose valuable seconds attempting to unclipping their seatbelt from the side. Logically. The way you would do in a car. Because your body just does that in times of extreme shock– muscle memory takes over. Best practice says to buckle and unbuckle your seatbelt a few times in order to give your muscles a better chance of retaining that information in an emergency situation… I’m not entirely sure it would help.
And speaking of shock…. A few years back, you may remember a commercial lane ditching into the Hudson River. Only a small percentage of passengers even remembered to grab their life jackets from under their seats. Because your brain is just awesome like that.
“Please keep your window blinds open..” this directive has never really helped with that whole fear-of-flying thing. ‘For pity’s sake… why?!’ my internal-sensible-entity-who-likes-to-keep-her-feet-on-the-ground asks. Well– if you’re sure you want to know– it’s so you can tell them if something untoward happens. Like a wing catching on fire.
“Lights will be dimmed during take and off landing…” Annnnnnd this one always baffled me, too. Of course, there’s another morbidly curious explanation. It’s so your eyes adjust to the potential darkness of the tarmac at night. Or the fug of a smoke filled cabin. Dilated pupils are all the better to evacuate you with.
The morbidly curious question… do the oxygen masks really get you high? Well… ‘hem. Funny you ask. Oxygen masks are a necessity if the cabin suddenly depressurizes. But, having sucked on pure oxygen before, I can personally validate the theory that ‘pure oxygen calms you down and promotes a sense of peace and well being’. Logically (again with the logic, I’m even impressing myself here) oxygen should produce the totally opposite effect to the ‘panic and fear’ chemicals our bodies produce given the slightest whiff of carbon monoxide. Authorities strenuously deny that oxygen masks on planes are there to make you forget that your plane is currently plummeting toward the ground, a la Fight Club…. I am not so sure.
Bare feet get burnt. Potentially. If you have your shoes off when jump from the big bouncy slide onto the tarmac, you may find your socks covered in burning jet fuel. Unpleasant. So the ‘shoes on’ warnings are more for reality than anal–retentiveness.
You are your Captain’s personal responsibility. And, so the theory goes, therein lies the reason he introduces himself to you at the beginning of the flight. Because now, he ‘knows’ you, and psychologically, feels more responsibility for your life. And perhaps that means he (or she) will be less inclined to have a lapse of concentration at a vital moment.
“Please listen carefully to the safety warnings, even if you fly often…” As if you have a choice- you may have noticed that no matter how much you try to tune out the “exits are here, here and here…” spiel… you can’t. It’s not your fault. Listen carefully to the air steward giving your safety speech next time you take off. You’ll notice that every sentence they say ends with a…. downward….. inflection… of… tone. People don’t usually talk like this– the unfamiliar rhythm forces your mind to pay attention, even if you actually can repeat the entire speech word for word.
Uhhhhh. Well. I do hope we all enjoyed that. In order to send me on a great big tin can that logic tells me shouldn’t actually be able to fly, you should throw your spare change my way and donate to the BloggersToBorneo appeal.
Because for some insane reason, even after writing this post… I still really, really want to go.