Yesterday I had to fly to Washington D.C. for work. I don’t love day trips to D.C. Even though it’s only for a day, it takes a lot out of you. This is especially true because in order to make my morning meeting, I have to take a very early flight. Considering how long it takes me to get to O’Hare, and how much lead time you want to leave to get through security, etc., that meant getting up at 2:30 a.m.
So going into it, I’m already not exactly operating at my best. This was further compounded by a 25 minute wait in the Starbucks line (there aren’t a lot of other options open at that hour), sandwiched in between two groups of high school girls who thought the height of fun at 4 a.m. was to invent a cheerleading cheer that went, “Frap! Achino! Frap frap achino!”
Finally I boarded and the flight actually left on time. However, if you recall, we’ve been having a bit of weather lately. By yesterday morning the storms had moved on past Chicago, but were just hovering over D.C. They rerouted us south and then north, before finally putting us in a holding pattern for an hour (which means I would now be missing at least part of the meeting I was flying there for). Finally they just decided we were going to land by hook or by crook.
The descent took us directly through the storm, and it was unbelievable. I’ve had anywhere from mild to severe turbulence before, but this was on another level. We had several of those weightless freefall moments followed by quick surges back up into the air, back to back to back. The plane was groaning and shuddering and everyone was gripping the armrests. The girl across the aisle from me started quietly sobbing, and the lady next to me was doing the rosary. The entire back of the plane was full of a high school, and every time the plane had one of those swooping drops, they would all scream at once. It was exactly like a roller coaster, except we weren’t on a rail and we didn’t have breaks.
It didn’t help that I just watched that Denzel Washington movie where he flies the plane upside down before crashing it. I kept waiting for the pilot to roll us (and my stomach kind of thought he did).
I wouldn’t say I have a stomach of iron, but I’ve never thrown up on a plane, boat, or even a roller coaster. I was honestly as close to throwing up as you can possibly be without actually throwing up. One more minute on the plane and I would have lost it. I heard paper bags snapping open all over the plane, and at least three times I almost went for mine. The only thing that kept me from doing it was that I knew if I put my hand into that seat-back pocket, I was implicitly giving my stomach the go ahead. If I got out the bag, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from using it. My determination to not use it *just about* cost me and the guy in front of me the clothes we were wearing.
When I got off the plane I went directly to the bathroom with the intention of throwing up. I did not throw up, but I was shaking so hard I had trouble walking. The combination of air sickness, adrenaline let down, and just waking up at 2:30 a.m. had me feeling about as roughed up as you can feel.
Fast-forward to the flight home. A second set of storms was coming through D.C. right about when we were supposed to leave. We were done with our afternoon meetings early, so we decided to head to the airport to see if we could catch a flight out before the storms arrived, stranding us.
We got to the airport at 4 and as we went by the flight list, I saw out of the corner of my eye that most of the flights had big cancel notices next to them. It seemed like our lucky day when we found a 3 p.m. flight that had been delayed until 5. Surprisingly we got seats, and rushed to the boarding area, only to find out it was delayed, and then delayed again. We did end up getting on that flight at about 7, only about an hour before my original flight was supposed to leave (still lucky though, since my original flight was delayed until at least 9 and still going).
I didn’t want to admit it in front of my coworkers, but I really don’t think I could have handled flying in another storm. I wasn’t even sure if I could handle just regular, smooth flying. It was an experience that is going to stick with me a while, and honestly my stomach was still unsettled from the morning. During take-off I had to crank the air up to combat the flop sweat. Our flight was about as smooth as could be expected, but I still couldn’t get the thought out of my head of how easily that plane was tossed around, and how fragile the whole thing really was.
All’s well that ends well, I suppose. Luckily I don’t need to fly anywhere anytime soon. Anybody been through something similar?