Logically, I know there’s hardly anything to be afraid of, and at the same time, more to be afraid of than I’ve ever considered when it comes to turbulence. Airlines have improved drastically, the rate of crashing planes is very few, and, in all honesty, even the hours it takes to fly across the Pacific or Atlantic isn’t that long when you think about it. I’d certainly rather fly than be forced to travel by ship as it used to be, I find planes comfortable (to the degree that a plane is able to be comfortable), and I quite enjoy writing on my laptop with a mug of tea parked nearby, and ear pods in my ears filling my head with music that inspires dances, writing, and art.
There’s always the few moments (especially when flying overseas) where the once tranquil setting is disrupted, usually only minutely, and the tea begins rolling in the cup. This only heightens my recognition that far below us, there’s just ocean, black as velvet, frothing and churning, cold as the winter air. The images start spinning in my head, a sequence beginning with a tumble and ending with a wet, suffocating demise. It’s not a pleasant image by any means, and all I can do is ignore it, dig my fingernails into the fleshy bits of my hands, and pray that this won’t be my last pitiful hurrah.
As it gets worse, I grasp the mug’s handle, hoping to steady the hot liquid inside, while inching my laptop away, which [and this sounds very privileged and materialistic] is one of my most prized possessions, because there’s a part of me within. My writing is an extension of my brain and thoughts, and it’s where I organize ideas for my future, or even just write down what tattoos I want, so that all that’s important will always travel on my person, compacted into one device.
Anyways, you may understand now why I’m nervously gripping the tea, and scooting the computer away, should a bounce come that forces the drink up and over the rim that constrains it, and in doing so, spill onto my computer and destroy all that’s within, (and furthermore, burn my legs or arms). So, even as I jot this down, my left typing hand strays every now and again to quickly clench the handle, partially to steady it, and partly, I think, for comfort. Like, “this is in place, on the sturdy table, and you’re not just on some aircraft thousands of feet in the air, flimsily protected from the greatness of Mother Nature’s winds”. At least, that’s what my inner therapist drills into my mind.
Once, while flying either to or returning from Heathrow airport in London, my father, his girlfriend, and I encountered the worst turbulence I’ve ever had the misfortune to be caught in. Had there been a mug of tea sitting before me at that time, it would have spilled the entirety of its contents, fallen on the floor, and bounced about for several minutes. It’s difficult for me to accurately describe the level of turbulence going on that day. Normal turbulence that comes with flying overseas is a few irregular bumps every now and then that you definitely can feel, and were you walking, each step taken would be a swaying, uneven one. On this particular flight, however, as we passed over Greenland, we felt the plane go up and down, like a little ride for kids, gently lifting and lowering them. As the plane rose and fell slightly, we laughed it off and joked about how this was “so terrifying” and “the worst we’d ever seen”. Looking back on the day, it really was scary, though we acted nonchalantly. I’d never and have never up until this point felt such jolts and bumps as I did on that trip, and the thought of “dark water, deep ocean” was ever-prominent in my mind. Obviously, that didn’t stop me from being over the moon to go to Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, but the way I felt, weightless and suspended in the air, stays close whenever we are struck with even the mildest of turbulence today.
Luckily, there hasn’t been much this trip so far; the tea sits safely in the cup and the computer functions properly as it always has. Furthermore, the tea’s cooled and all drunk up, so there’s no worry of burning from spilled, scalding water. The plane has calmed, the lights are off with some asleep and some furiously typing away (as I am) or reading quietly, cramped but cozy, irritated and ready to get off, but lost in time as well. Now that my writing mind’s been spent, and my tea’s been drunk, I’ll shove the computer into my carry-on, slide the collapsable table away, put on a movie for entertainment, and try to get some sleep.
Author Notes: This was written in the midst of turbulence while flying to England as a distraction. Sadly, my worried mind could only think of the obvious.