In the Air

My husband and I have never been fond of flying. Not that we haven’t flown, we have, but if driving is feasible, we’d rather hop in our car, turn the key or press the button, and accelerate.

The year was 2019 when we visited our daughter and son-in-law for the first time after they moved to Tennessee. It’s tough living so far from them now. Visiting takes more thought – sitting in an airplane for almost five hours or driving across country are the best options. Since flying will bring us to them swiftly, flying it is!

“Mom, if you and Dad take a red-eye, you’ll fly at night and won’t waste a day of traveling,” my daughter suggested.

“That sounds like a good plan,” I replied, not giving it much thought. So, Matt and I booked our red-eye flight. On the night of our departure when we clambered our way through security, we were surprised at how crowded the San Francisco Airport was at 11pm. We were definite red-eye rookies. We had time to kill, so relaxing over a glass of wine sounded nice. I realized Matt was more talk when it came to jumpy nerves about flying. Once we survived the winding lines of security, the juggle of wallets and cell phones while tightly gripping our luggage, any jumpy nerves he experienced lied down to rest. He enjoyed the airport experience – the buzz of people in masses coming and going from who knows where and heading to who knows where.

My nerves, however, were as jumpy as kids in a bounce house, and I had high hopes for that Chardonnay. Our flight was boarding, so we joined the other passengers in walking through the boarding bridge. The rows on the plane comprised of three seats on each side. Our seats were near the wings. After sliding my carry-on into the compartment above, I slid into the middle seat with Matt to my right on the aisle. In a few minutes, a young woman wearing a black jacket with the hood pulled over her head climbed over us to find her window seat on my left.

I silently kept telling myself that all will be fine. Get comfortable, breathe in, breathe out. The jet began to roll down the runway and Matt took my hand to calm me. Takeoff was as smooth as silk. Once we were flying in the air and seatbelts unbuckled, I exhaled, assuming I was fine. But where I blundered involved my breathing. Did you know you can breathe incorrectly?

“Honey, I feel like I’m going to pass out,” I whispered to Matt.

“What?” He said with panic in his voice. After all, by this time, the clock read midnight and the jet soared over 30,000 feet in the air. No emergency exit provided an escape. This was not a Disneyland ride.

“Honey! My hands and feet are contorting and going numb. I’m going to pass out! PLEASE FIND HELP!” I pleaded through the light-headedness.

The Eagle Scout in my husband shined as he hurriedly walked to where the flight attendants were comfortably sitting. He couldn’t believe this was happening at thousands of feet in the air trapped in a silver cylinder! I’m sure this event wasn’t a first for the flight attendant. The woman was compassionate and, in a firm, loud voice for all passengers to hear, she asked if a doctor was on board, and gratefully, a doctor was on board!

When Matt returned to my side, two flight attendants and that doctor accompanied him. My hands resembled pretzels and my head lolled back on the head rest. I couldn’t feel my feet. I remember the male doctor’s soothing voice, instructing me to again breathe in and out s-l-o-w-l-y. I was given a few sips of 7-up to help raise my blood sugar level. In a matter of minutes, I began to feel human again…hands relaxed to normal position, I could wiggle my toes, and the dizziness in my head subsided.

“Lauren, it looks like you hyperventilated. You didn’t have a panic attack, but it’s important to stay calm and breathe slowly,” the kind doctor said to me. When I exhibited no more symptoms, the doctor and flight attendants returned to their seats and stations. By the way, the young woman sitting on my left kept to herself during my entire calamity – white earbuds plugged in for entertainment and the hood still covering her head.

When the excitement ended, embarrassment washed over me like a tsunami. I wanted to slide down my seat in flexible fashion like Gumby. Instead, my head held high, I analyzed what had just occurred. My analysis was clear as drinking water. It wasn’t so much the flying; it was flying at night that terrified me. But the only way to realize this is to sit in an airplane as it soars through the inky darkness. This nugget of knowledge noted.

No more red-eyes for me and a Big Thank You to doctors on board! From now on, my flights will ascend into the big blue with the golden sun as my beacon. I now know how not to breathe! And a day of airport hopping will never be a waste when our children wait for our arrival on the other side of the itinerary.

The “kids” playing tourists in downtown Nashville.

Lauren Scott (c) 2021 ❤️
Airplane photo courtesy of Google