As a child, when asked what superpower I would want, I would generally have answered with whatever I thought would impress the people I was with. I was a pitifully shy and shamefully conscientious child. Secretly though, I’ve always had one answer. I would choose flight, wings, the ultimate freedom to explore the world on my own steam. As a late teen I had a lucid dream on one occasion, in which I could have chosen to do literally anything, in which I chose to fly. As an avid globetrotter, and truly nomadic soul, I will always feel the need to explore. All this considered, it is quite unfortunate that I suffer from acute and intense anxiety whenever on, in or even looking at airplanes.
The extent of my plane problem is diminishing but at its peak I have been known to have lengthy panic attacks, have certainly irritated countless fellow passengers and even devolved into a tearful tragic mess, on more than one occasion when in flight. This is to my major embarrassment, I am in no other place or time ever this anxious.
My suffering rationale revolves around the fact that my pre, and post, pubescent desire to grow wings and fly was, and remains, a non-realistic, harmless and childish aspiration. The fact that we can, in this modern age, board giant metallic birds and slice through clouds at a truly unnatural speed does not placate my whimsical dream. Instead, it perverts it and turns it into the resolution that solves the initial need but in a way that wasn’t wanted. Classic ‘be careful what you wish for’ movie trope.
As a result of this, On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself in truly memorable situations. For example, on a rare non-budget airline flight back to London from Athens, I found myself drinking to extraordinary excess with the cabin crew (that can’t be ok?) at the back of the plane. Alcohol was an easy solution to the anxiety problem. What a crazy experience, I was petrified that I wouldn’t get through security when we landed Thank goodness for self-scanning passport kiosks (although it took me 3 attempts).
On another occasion, due to my size and strength, I was asked to act as a security guard for some petrified air hostesses who couldn’t handle a troublesome bunch of lads on a flight back from Miami to London. As with alcohol, Immediate security duties certainly helped temporarily remove my fear of flying.
Recently I have travelled a lot and although my plane dilemma remains, it is becoming more and and more manageable. The reality is that a commercial flight is almost entirely safe,
Anxieties.com tells us:
‘If you flew every day of your life, probability indicates that it would take you nineteen thousand years before you would succumb to a fatal accident. Nineteen thousand years!’
Perhaps however, I need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to aspirational superpowers.
Invisibility could be fun instead?
Although there was a point in my childhood where I was, to all intents and purposes, unseen and that wasn’t fun.
Moral of the story, in adult life you soon realise that becoming a superhero is generally ill-advised. Just be the best at being yourself.
(Photo – Eli Woodbine – USA)