I arrived at the airport, ready to ‘slip the surly bonds of Earth’. I had to fly from Mumbai to Florence with a connection at Zurich! After the long check-in, immigration, security checks, and several miles walk to the gate, I was ready to board my RJ100 AvroLiner operated by Swiss Air.
I went to my seat, put my carry-on baggage on one of the overhead luggage compartments and settled down in all excitement. While I was gazing out of the window, a lady came right next to me, occupying the aisle seat. She immediately fastened her seat belt and started watching the television. My mind ran through all the “whys” and my head had set the imagination soaring. Why is she watching the TV already? Isn’t she looking forward to this journey? Isn’t she excited? What is she thinking?
My excitement turned into an anxiety when the plane started accelerating and I could hear some thuds. Moments like this hit you with the realization that you’ve no control over certain situations and this lost sense of control really scared the shit out of me. It’s something that I had never experienced before. I mean, who are these pilots? Are they experienced enough? What if we go down? It’s all up to these two strangers you’ve never met. But you simply have to trust that they know what they’re doing.
Eventually when the plane became airborne, it felt unreal. The feeling of being in air for the first time. The feeling of pressure. The feeling of being pulled back to your seat. The feeling of eardrums popping like popcorn in a microwave. The feeling of losing consciousness due to changing altitudes. Oh, I was high (not on alcohol this time!)!! Before anyone could notice me and think that I’m weird, I stared out the window trying to be normal but my heartbeats kept racing.
Within a couple of seconds, I was high up in the sky and the view was breath-taking.
I was hypnotized with the glowing Mumbai night – the land divided into neat patterns, the buildings rising high and the roads meeting the horizons – everything seemed perfectly aligned.
The world seems to make more sense from up high. I felt like a bird flying in the sky through giant soft cotton balls. The feeling of “me” fades away and the “ego” dissipates. There I am above 35,000 feet above the ground, from where I am not even equivalent to a speck of dust, with my fate in the hands of two strangers.
After reaching at cruising altitude, the anxiety was relieved. I took a deep breath, read a book, and watched a movie while the flight attendants served dinner (I did everything I could that a person who isn’t afraid of flying would do). Then I just slept until the destination arrived.
Well, it’s not the end. The landing was again a feat but I kept advising myself, “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. It’s going to be O.K. Breathe.” And I reached my first destination: Zurich! I can’t explain the feeling of landing safely after the immense swerve and shudder. Howbeit, when I boarded my next flight from Zurich to Florence, I knew what to expect and I was mentally prepared.
Well, the first flight experience is always a memorable one, a journey full of mixed emotions. Despite having flown for a decent number of times, flying always scares the bejesus out of me. When I look down from the plane, I think, “We’re far up. We’re screwed. Someone get me out of here. Are we supposed to turn like that? That was a big drop! What’s wrong? We’re all gonna die!!! Ahhhh!!!”. But I’ve learned how to deal with my fear. After a few deep breaths, I calm down, enjoy the flight and marvel at the amazing science. On one hand, it makes you realize that all the control that you think you have is an illusion. On the other hand, it makes you relax and live a little.