Leaving (and Going to) Las Vegas

We took a trip to Las Vegas recently. We flew. I hate flying. I’m afraid of flying. Actually, that’s not really accurate. I’m OK with the flying part; it’s crashing I’m afraid of. I’ve never been in a plane crash. I know one person who was, but it wasn’t a jet. It was just a small charter plane. Everyone lived in that accident. This does not make me feel even one tiny bit better. I’m related to a commercial airline pilot. I know the odds of a plane crash. The problem is, I flunked Statistics, and I suck at math, so as far as I’m concerned, every take off is just as likely to end in a blazing fireball of jet fuel as any other. I’ve had dozens of conversations with pilots about how seldom planes crash and how the pilot wants to get home too and blah blah whatever the fuck I don’t care I still hate to fly.

But I had a few thoughts on airplane travel, and since I’m kind of a, “think some shit and vomit it all back up at you lovely people” person, here we go.

I’m always afraid the guy who figured out our fuel for the flight forgot to carry the two.
On our way down to Vegas, our flight was diverted to a place called Ontario, California. The pilot explained that there were scattered storms around Las Vegas, and planes were being put into holding patterns until they could get clearance to land. Our fuel wasn’t sufficient to sustain that, so we were being diverted. We’d be refueled, and fly back to Vegas, which was about an hour long flight. So considering that here we are with clearly low fuel, and we have to take off and land one more time than I was counting on (I hate takeoff most, landing is a close second, and turbulence is third), I was pretty unhappy. Add to that the flight attendant said that because the flight between Ontario and Vegas was so short they wouldn’t be offering beverage service (I am forced to fly with significant levels of liquid courage), this wasn’t looking good for me.

Since I suck at math (see: Airplane Crashes, Probability Of, above) I just always assume that the calculations for these things are super complicated (because, you know, you have to burn fuel to carry fuel) and worry that the guy who did them for our flight just found out his wife is having an affair with another woman, or his 16 year old daughter is dating a known drug dealer, or dealing with some other personal crisis that might distract him from his calculations. I know, I know these things are all done by computers these days, but someone has to input the data to make the calculation happen at some point, and so I worry.

(Update: we did not crash.)

If I were a flight attendant, I would be fired for scolding people who wanted to use the restroom before takeoff for not going before they left home.
On our flight (make that flights, plural) down, one Asian gentleman got up to use the restroom no fewer than seven times. Two of them before we even left the gate. Since I didn’t use the restroom the whole time (ew, get me started someday on public restrooms—thank god my bladder capacity is “camel”), I have no idea if he had a significant problem, or if he just had a very small bladder (but if the latter, dude, lay off the selection of complimentary beverages, would you?), but his trips to the potty seemed excessive. If I’d been the flight attendant, I’d have probably said more than I should have, especially about the pre-flight visits when everyone was trying to store their steamer trunks in the overhead bins. Sit. The. Fuck. Down.

For whatever reason, I get more free booze from flight attendants than I probably deserve. Or need.
Maybe because I’m clearly a white knuckle flier, or maybe because I’m often flying with multiple small children, flight attendants seem to take pity on me and sometimes provide me with as much free booze as I can soak up. On the first flight of our most recent trip, over the space of three hours, I was given three free bottles of white wine (those little ones, you know). In the past, on cross country flights, I’ve been given up to five or six (I don’t drink them—once I reach my limit I start stashing them in my purse so that I don’t have to pay for overpriced wine at our destination). On many flights earlier in my life sympathetic flight attendants gave me multiple free mini bottles of vodka (when I was still a vodka drinker, in my carefree youth). It’s not always free—I’ve paid for it plenty of times. But lots of times they just give it to me.

On this particular flight, I was traveling alone with my four kids. They were giving me all kinds of trouble getting into their seats. Not that they were bad, but they were constantly saying, “Hey Mommy…hey Mommy…hey Mommy…” (and for those Moms with children who don’t yet talk, or don’t talk in full sentences, two words of advice: 1) Their first word will probably be “dada.” You want to encourage this, and 2) I know you’re thinking, “I can’t wait until the day they can speak in full sentences, and express their thoughts, and converse!” Take it from me: Yes you fucking can). Finally they were all in their seats and I looked back at the flight attendant in the galley who had been watching this whole seating process, smiled sweetly, and said, “What time does your beverage service start?” She laughed and said, “Fifteen minutes after takeoff.” And free wine was forthcoming, bless her heart.

When did a water landing stop being “unlikely”?
When I was flying back in the 80s, and even into the 90s, I recall that the wording of the safety demonstration was, “In the unlikely event of a water landing, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device.” And they’d go on to explain about the straps and your arms and whatnot. But in the last ten or twenty years, I’ve noticed they’ve dropped that word, “unlikely” from their little speech. I have flown from landlocked destination to landlocked destination in my day, and still they don’t say “unlikely.” Particularly in those cases, I wonder what major body of water we’ll be flying over that would make a water landing not-unlikely in the event that we were to go down.

I mean, I get it—I remember the Air Florida crash in Washington, DC in February of 1982 or ‘83, when the plane flew into the 14th Street Bridge and everyone ended up in the icy Potomac River and a bunch of people died. I also remember the more recent incident when the pilot “ditched” into the Hudson River in New York City and I’m pretty sure everyone lived. And there is some water near us, sure, but there’s way more land than water, so I’m still a little curious. Also, it’s not like water landings have become sort of the norm since the 80s and all the cool pilots are doing them. They’re still incredibly rare, as far as I can tell.

Also, for panicky hyper-terrified freaks like me, when they omit that small but significant word they might just as well be saying, “Kiss it all goodbye, and prepare to go down to your watery grave, you goner. I hope your insurance premiums are current.”

I can never hear airport announcements without thinking of that “red zone/white zone” dialog over the loudspeaker in the movie “Airplane."

"Listen Betty, don't start up with your white zone shit again."

As a result of this, I spend most of my time in airports snickering quietly to myself, which I alternate by dreading the flight I’m about to get on. Laughter, terror, laughter. It’s sort of the story of my life, anyway.
So those were the thinks I thinked during our travels. Come back later when I’ll spew some mental vomit about my experiences with Las Vegas! With an offer like that, you should be counting the seconds, right?!?


Ashley said...

Oh boy, you and I are a lot alike. I'm always sitting straight up and paying attention to the flight attendant's survival demo. Every single time I fly I think the most dire thoughts. And I really want to drink! Can't wait to hear about your trip. ;)

Tracy said...

I really hate flying. And I was fine until I was 16 and sitting on the runway looking at a space shuttle that was next to the runway I was on (at Washington Dulles--it was being put in a museum out there)about six months after the Challenger disaster. Then it all clicked and I went, "Oh shit!" And I've hated it ever since!

Sarah (est. 1975) said...

Aww, I am totally the "must pee before take-off" potty queen. I don't go 7 times during a flight, but I usually do have to go a bunch. However, knowing this, I do always ask for an aisle seat to avoid disrupting people. Don't hate me because my bladder is a piece of shit! ;)

Tracy said...

I have a blatantly unapologetic double standard, and if it's someone I know (or, you know, "know" in this case, since we've never met, but you write a mean haiku and took the same anti seizure meds I did so I know you're a human being of sterling character), it's totally OK. I will happily make excuses for people I like, while dinging people I don't know. So you just go pee whenever you need to and I will never judge you :)

Unknown said...

While I don't obsess about a crash landing (or take off), I always make sure I'm wearing shoes that will stay on my feet if I need to run. I also make sure I know exactly where the nearest exit is and how many people I may have to climb over/push out of the way to get there first.

If you have a baby or a little kid, I will totally save them if you shove them at me. Otherwise, you're on your own!

Tracy said...

I too make sure I know where the nearest exit is, even if it's behind me. I usually wear sneakers, but that's just because I usually wear sneakers.

Thank you for your willingness to save my child(ren). I will make sure to get a visual on you during our next flight. I always wonder about the ability of two parents to save four kids during a crisis! Good to know we have voluntary backup :)

Unknown said...

Traveling w/ 4 kids alone???

Love: "Every take off is just as likely to end in a blazing fireball of jet fuel as any other." I used to think that way too. Then I got over it. Now I feel like if I just make it to my destination & get a vacation out of it, it's worth it.

Tracy said...

It was the first time I've ever done it and there's a whole blog post in the works about the anxiety attacks I had!!