Flying doesn’t scare me, at least not the part where we’re up in the clouds being served food in tiny plastic containers every two hours. What really stresses me out is all the before: getting to the airport on time, lining up to check in, security scans, passport control, all that stuff drives me nuts.
Queen of overplanning
Maybe I should research relaxation methods but that’s not my style. Instead, I overthink and overprepare for every aspect of the process so that if anything goes wrong, I won’t feel like I could have done something to avoid it. My motto: always have a plan B. And preferably a plan C.
No matter how paranoid it sounds, I will calculate the time I need to be at the check-in counter at the indicated time, plus an allowance for any unexpected events along the way, eg a train or bus breakdown – cue to research alternative modes of transport and prices –, a strike, my credit card misbehaving, etc.
I run possible scenarios in my head: what if my phone is stolen / out off battery / malfunctioning / refuses to roam once I get to my destination? What if I can’t withdraw cash? What if I desperately need help and can’t find anyone who speaks English? What if I lose my passport?
Once I’m done with all that insane mental preparation, I feel somewhat confident that I’ve done everything in my power to catch the flight in time and foresee any major bumps along the way.
And, just so we’re clear: most of the things I mentioned above have happened to me on a trip at some point or another. Being resourceful in tricky situations is great but not as ideal as avoiding said situation in the first place.
Maybe this careful planning has to do with the fact that the first time I ever travelled on a long haul flight, I almost didn’t make it to Malaysia because I did not have a return ticket (ie proof of onward travel within 90 days). This ignorance of airline policy dug a big hole in my bank account, since I had to purchase a supposedly refundable ticket at an extortionate price. Make it to Malaysia I did, just with a severly limited budget to survive on.
Now, when things do go south, I generally keep a cool head. Except that some things still get to me: like airport security announcements in Paris.
Panic on board
A couple of weeks ago, I had gone to pick up my husband from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. The flight had been delayed and I ended up spending almost two hours in what passes for an arrivals hall.
During the time I was there, a security announcement was broadcast every 5 minutes for about half an hour, warning whoever had forgotten their luggage at gate XX to please go collect it before it was destroyed by the bomb squad (or whatever they’re called).
I went into a hyperventilating panic, moving away to another gate without being able to get terrifying bomb blast images out of my head. Yet the announcement kept being repeated, in what felt like a stern yet somewhat unfazed tone.
Meanwhile, sodiers in fatigues and huge machine guns were pacing up and down the hall. Is that supposed to make one feel secure? If so, it does not work. At all.
Maybe I do need to get my act together and start practising yoga.