I have never been on a particularly rough flight. I was mistakenly under the impression turbulence was a random shudder or jolt of the aircraft. Yesterday I had my first experience of “weather” in the air.
Remember those amusement park rides with the boat that swings back and forth in a continuously enlarging swoop, gaining speed with each pass? The moment the boat shifts direction and your body is still moving with the inertia of flight the other way. The seemingly insufficient safety bar is the only reason you are not launched into oblivion and certain doom. I hate that ride. I hate it almost as much as the Sombrero ride that goes up and down in a circle. It’s the same feeling. The moment of weightlessness before your body is jerked into submission by the mechanical devil seeking to “thrill” you into having a good time.
The nausea inducing sensation of the body without steady ground to stand on is the worst feeling in the world. I realized during my rough flight I experience this sensation anytime I am anxious. Throw me into a new situation when I do not know the expectations and I am left with a lurching, spinning, falling gut. My mouth fills with bile and I get a cold sweat across my forehead. My hands become clammy and shockingly unsteady. I feel like my knees are going to buckle under the sheer force of gravity. It makes it hard to maintain a cool demeanor. Forget about cracking jokes and being clever. I am reduced to a sweaty, jittery fool. I lose my voice and my confidence. I forget how to pronounce words. I fantasize about a giant hole opening up and sliding down into a wonderland where I can forget all my troubles. I want to give up and find a familiar place. I need someone to hold my hand and tell me I am smart. Anything to ease the incompetence oozing from my pores.
Yesterday, I sat frozen in my airline seat, trying mightily to stay calm. No one else appeared particularly concerned. The guy next to me was reading. I had the urge to punch him in the nose to see if he bled. I was convinced he was some sort of cyborg. There is no way a human could read George R.R. Martin under these conditions. He is obviously a freak of nature with an iron stomach.
The gentle swaying back and forth was immensely more uncomfortable than the violent jerks when the plane seemed destined to be thrown out of the sky. Forget freefalling. This plane was going to be batted down out of the air by the invisible fist of an angry God. Apparently I am still religious while in the air. The pilot keep coming on the speaker muttering unintelligible updates about bad winds and weather in the distance. He continued to offer assurances of smooth air in the near, but ever further future. I had decided he must be some sort of sadist, offering me hope in this manner. After about 19 hours of dispair, we found the smooth air. (Amazing since it was a five hour trip.)
It turns out turbulence is not only experienced while one is strapped into a metal tube hurtling high above humanity. I experience it on a fairly frequent occasion. I am hoping to learn to quell my terror and learn to work through the sensations, all while keeping my wits about me. Perhaps I can even learn to be clever while I force my body to stop trembling and remember to wipe the condensation from my palms before I shake this stranger’s hand.