I have a friend who is a nervous flier. I had a coffee with him today at our local mall, here in BKK. Dunkin Donuts! Because that's the way of our Brave New World. All malls everywhere are starting to look the same. He's got a ticket for Thursday, but he's still not sure about the whole thing. Maybe he'll actually go, maybe not.
The funny thing is that in most ways he is by far by more well-adjusted of the two of us. He's a bit younger than me, and therefore he understands the Internet thing, and how to do this and that, and how to find the good bargains. He doesn't fly that often, you know, because he hates it so much. Being in economy for a long flight is just too much for him, “like being trapped in a little tube!” To be fair, he's way north of six feet tall, and it really is harder for those folks. He limits his trips back to the States to once every three or four years, and he's seriously thinking of stretching that out to five. He's a “miles” guy, he looks for special sales on miles and buys them. If, and I do mean if, he actually takes off on Thursday, he'll be flying Business Class. He bought the ticket for miles at an out-of-pocket cost of about 50% of a regular ticket. Me, flying Business Class, I'd be more comfortable on the plane than sitting on my own couch watching Netflix, and then sleeping in my own bed. For him it's still torture.
“I don't know,” he says, “maybe I should wait until the spring.” He's been doing this for two weeks now. “Should I go? I hate traveling, and there's nothing for me to do there.” I try to be a good friend, but knowing exactly what a good friend should tell him is very hard to figure out.
“Just Skype with your mom and tell her that you have too much work right now,” I told him. This was over a week ago. There were many obstacles to that plan, none of which had anything to do with the actual merits of the trip.
“No, I have to go and get it over with,” he said, way back then. After that he changed his mind multiple times. After our coffee today, he was going upstairs to buy some souvenirs to take along for everybody, but his last words were, “even if I cancel, the souvenirs will be fine until the spring.”
Before you start comparing this to your experience of flying domestic in Thailand or America, bear in mind: we're talking about a trip from Bangkok to Chicago. That's over thirty hours one way, door to door, and more if you have a long lay-over. I only need to make it to California, and that's already quite a slog. Fly to Chi-Town and you can wave hello to Santa out the window.
I will admit that I find take-offs a bit nerve-wracking these days. Mishaps on take-off kill everyone on the plane, due to the presence of about ten-thousand gallons of jet fuel. After that I'm fine though, as long as I get my preferred seat. That's 53G, in Economy, on a Boeing 777, aisle seat of the middle three, on the starboard side. Try it, you'll like it. I take my friend's panic as an opportunity to be supremely grateful that I do not have that particular problem in addition to the many that I am already saddled with.