I love to travel. I also love to fly. I love being above the clouds – where, on one occasion, nearly a decade ago, I flew past the peak of Everest; and where, on other flights, I’ve witnessed the starkness of Arctic tundra; miles of clear blue water; and dense jungle as far as the eye could see. But one aspect of flying is problematic and taxing: Turbulence. At best, it’s troubling and prompts palpitations; at worst, it’s my fearsome foe. And, if it worsens, I’ll be grounded for good.
Which is why I’ve tried a slew of solutions to overcome my anxiety; from asking flight attendants to check on me; from watching videos to tapping; and, most recently, willfully submitting to hypnosis.
But on yesterday’s flight home from Singapore, after a pilot said hello to me at the gate before heading down the plank with his crew; after kneeling on my pillow by the window; and after watching the flight attendants illustrate emergency features and escape routes, I concocted a new idea: rather than yellow masks cascading out of the stowaway compartment above my head (as they once did on an overseas flight in childhood), a button when pressed, would instead eject a mini-pilot.
Much like Tokyo’s (in)famous “Rent-A-Friend,” a personal, pint-sized navigator would parachute down and onto my arm-rest. He’d spend the duration of the flight, explaining each shake and bump. He’d whisper, in great detail, the cause and significance of every jolt and jiggle.
And then, as the tires hit the tarmac, my “rent-a-pilot” would shrivel into tininess, and float back up into the receptacle above my head – waiting to be called on by another trepidatious traveler like me.