It’s next to impossible for me to believe I’m here again. The past thirty-six hours are a sleepy fog for me. The only thing that’s remotely real is the feeling of my feet on the coffee table and the heat that my laptop is emitting. Other than that, it’s hard for me to believe I’m not dreaming.
My flight was uneventful, but the hours leading up to the flight were full of nerves and tears. Goodness. I haven’t cried that hard since I left for Brazil the first time. I was nauseous and sweaty, my mind swirling with the most horrific visions of my own death–planes crashing, falling straight out of the sky and landing in deep water, passengers throwing up all over each other. These visions only got worse as we approached the terminal by foot and by the time we actually walked inside the doors, I was so sick to my stomach I was sure that was a sign that I shouldn’t get on the flight.
I’m big with signs when it comes to flying. Dennis was too, several years ago, but he gave up all his superstitions because he thought it was unhealthy. I don’t have that kind of strength. In fact, my superstitions are getting much, much worse with each long flight I take. Maybe they’re not superstitions; I guess it’s more like a mental flowchart leading to success. And it’s not so much the flying part that I’m superstitious about, or the take-off or the landing. It’s everything leading up to the take-off over the course of the entire day that counts. The flowchart begins when I open my eyes on the day of my flight. It goes a little like this:
Step 1: Look out the window.
a) If good weather, proceed to Step 2. I’ll live.
b) If bad weather, my plane will crash.
Step 2: Get out of bed.
a) If my slippers are there, proceed to Step 3. I’ll live.
b) If my slippers are not there, my plane will crash.
c) If my slippers are not there but close by, proceed to Step 3.
d) If I know I don’t wear slippers and can find a good substitute for slippers, like, say, socks, I’ll live.
Step 3: Eat food
a) If the food that I’m craving is there in the refrigerator, I’ll live.
b) If the food that I’m craving is not there in the refrigerator, my plane will crash.
c) If one portion of the food is there that I’m craving, I’ll live.
d) If the food isn’t there and I can go out and get different food that I’m craving, I’ll live.
It goes on like this all day. I’m exhausted by the time I have to get in the car to drive to the airport and God help me if my flight is in the evening. All that thinking wears me out. Actually, it’s so ridiculous that I made myself laugh while reading blogs during the day. I read one of Dooce’s and Dennis kept interrupting me to ask me questions. It had me so nervous after a little while that I told Dennis to stop because I needed to read Dooce. I didn’t explain why I needed to, but I knew that it was because if the plane was going down, I wanted to say I’d at least finished reading Dooce’s post that day. I could see myself gripping the seat in front of me, screaming as we plunged into the deep blue of the midnight Atlantic water, “And I didn’t even finish Dooce!” There’s some final words for you.
Packing my passport:
1) Do I have all of the ticket stubs I’ve used and traveled with on successful flights from the last year? If so, I’ll live. If not, my plane will crash.
2) Are they in order from last to most recent and does my passport touch the most recent ticket stub? If so, I’ll live. If not, my plane will crash.
3) Have I taken anything out of my passport holder from the past year and a half? If everything is there, in order, I’ll live. If not, my plane will crash.
Packing my carry-on:
1) Do I have my grey fleece blanket, iPod, glasses case, and blue Delta pouch that I got in my First Class flight to Brazil the first time?
2) In that blue Delta pouch, do I have my blue pen, my Tylenol PM, keys, the piece of paper from Dennis, every single eye mask and earplug I’ve gotten on flights? Do I have the chapstick that I got on my first flight in that blue pouch? The toothbrush and toothpaste that I used only that first flight?
3) Do I have the tiny Tiffany’s pouch that my necklace came in that Dennis gave me for my 27th birthday? In it are my charms?
4) Have I placed that tiny Tiffany’s pouch on the inside of my left sleeve against my wrist before leaving the house? (And where it will remain until I am safely in Brazil, or wherever my destination is.)
If I answer “no” to any of these questions, my plane will crash.
Approaching the airport and parking:
1) If we park in the same spot (trust me, I know which one it is) that we park in each time, I’ll live.
2 ) If we don’t park in the same spot, I have to run through these questions:
- Is it on the ground level? (If yes, I’ll live. If no, my plane will crash.)
- If it’s not on ground level, is it in the same general area of the parking lot as the original spot–like on the same side of the garage? (If yes, I’ll live. If no, my plane will crash.)
At the terminal, if there is a long line to check in, my plane will crash. If there is not a long line, I’ll live. However, I can also rationalize that it’s a short line because I’m supposed to get on the plane quickly to rush me to my death. Most often, however, no line is a positive thing. There was no line last night, none whatsoever.
At the gate:
If most of the people at the desk and at the gate are women, my plane is going to crash. If most are men, I’ll live.
On the plane:
My final judgement of whether I will live or die is the sound of the lead flight attendant’s voice. If the voice is confident and strong, and often a man’s voice, I’ll live. If the voice is wavery light voice, often that of a woman, it’s not good news. If it’s a woman’s voice who greets us, then I need to listen for the captain’s voice to judge whether or not it’ll be a successful flight.
Last night, for instance, my flow chart sucked. We left from Connecticut later than I would have liked. I forgot my iPod and we had to turn back, which took an extra 2o minutes. We parked nowhere NEAR the original parking spot because JFK had blocked off the ground level of the lot because it was full. So we had to drive up one flight, which had me nervous because I’ve never parked on an upper level on the day of a flight, but at least it was fairly close to where the ground level spot was. There was no line, which meant we had an hour to kill before I had to be at the gate, so we went to a different terminal and it didn’t look familiar at all, even though we had apparently been there before. At the gate there were all women, one of whom couldn’t understand the difference between a tourist visa and a work visa. When I got to my seat on the plane, the voice of the flight attendant was a woman’s, and then I knew I had one more chance to live: the captain’s voice.
I was worried at first, but I’ve had great success with Delta captains and I’m not sure I’ll fly another US airline other than Delta simply because of their voices. Last night a kind voice came on and gave us the run through, using good key words like “safety” and “comfortable.” I didn’t care so much about the “comfortable” part, but whatever the captain said I definitely heard as: “I promise to get you to Brazil in one piece.” I’m big on promises. I guess I never grew out of that childhood phase. I would have made him pinky swear, but by that time we were already locked into our seats and I doubt they would have let me go up front to grab the captain’s little finger.
And then, and this is when I knew it would definitely be okay, he started talking about football. And I know if a captain can talk about football before a 10 hour flight to Brazil, and then once more during that same flight, it’s going to be okay. At that point, I knew it’d be okay. I waited patiently for the food to come out, went to the bathroom, and then downed two Tylenol PMs (that were stored in the blue Delta pouch that I’d gotten on my first flight to Brazil, remember) and passed out. The drugs weren’t enough to make me totally pass out because, even though I managed to be asleep through 90% of the flight, each time the plane hit turbulent air (which may have been nothing more turbulent than that from a ceiling fan) I woke myself up just enough to say, “turbulence, it’s just turbulence,” and then fell back to sleep.
So there you have my neroses. I’m tired from reliving them. I’m back in Brazil; I’m exhausted and I’m about to spend my first night alone here in three months. It’s quiet outside and I’m listening to James Taylor, a CD Dennis gave me for Christmas. The song? Fire and Rain. You know, the song that says, “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.” Ha, James Taylor. Not this time. I’m on land and there’s no need to be reading into your lyrics that would have most certainly predicted my death had I listened to this song yesterday.
And so begins my final 6 months in this country.