Monday, August 06, 2007

The Irrational Fear of Flying

W: In their insightful chapter about Parenting, the authors of Freakonomics write about how humans generally make poor decisions in the face of irrational fears. The classic example concerns people who are afraid of flying in an airplane but yet have no fear of driving in a car. The authors, using their economics wizardry, show that the chance of imminent death are roughly equal for both modes of travel, and thus, the fear of flying and non-fear of driving are irrational.

I say this to the authors of Freakonomics: Yeah, I hear you, but I don't care. I hate flying because I fear flying, and I don't care if I'm being "irrational."

So, over the years I developed two extremely successful methods of coping with my "irrational" fear of flying. If my flight is before 10:30 AM, I call upon my gentle, yet quite effective, pharmaceutical friend Ambien to take me to Dreamland from runway to runway. No consciousness = no conscious fears. And if my flight was after 10:30 AM, my method involves, as you likely surmised, a vodka martini or three in the airport and a few maintenance drink orders onboard the plane.

Obviously, those methods involve a concerted effort to deal with my "irrational" fear of flying by altering my consciousness, by either completely shutting it down (Ambien) or by significantly dulling it (martinis).

On Saturday, we had an early flight, but since we were traveling with the Deuce, both of the above-described methods of dealing with my "irrational" fear were out of the question (irresponsible, negligent, possibly criminal).

Well, one 4 1/2 hour flight later, I'm happy to report that both methods were unnecessary. My new method of dealing with my fear of flying is called "fear displacement." With O-Gubba on my lap, my fear of flying didn't even register! In its place, a new, more powerful fear took its place: Me As (possible) Parent of Crying Baby on a Plane.

First, I admit that I'm probably guilty of giving "the look" to a parent carrying a baby on a plane. Embedded within "the look" are a multitude of thoughts such as "I better not be sitting next to you," "Why in the hell are you flying with an infant anyway?," and above all, "You better keep that thing quiet."

With the Deuce in tow, we pre-boarded the plane and sat down in the bulkhead. Then as the rest of our fellow passengers boarded, about 90% gave me "the look" or at least I imagined that they did. Regardless, I heard them loud and clear, and my new look back to my fellow passengers said, "Hell no I don't want to be the parent of the screaming baby - I'll do everything I can!"

And so I focused every ounce of energy in my body on O-Gubba from take-off to landing.

Two things happened: He didn't make a peep, and I didn't even realize we were in the air. And if you don't even know you're flying, you can't be afraid.

Posted by Walker Lockhart @ 10:09 AM

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Wonderful! As a mom of 6-yr-old twins, I know exactly what you're talking about. All of a sudden, (well, 6 years ago) I became a pillar of strength and rational behavior; this does manifest itself on planes (where I too am normally somewhat nervous) saying outrageously cheerful stuff like wow! Look at how far you can see! Look at how small the houses are! We're so high up! etc. etc. etc. until the entire plane is feeling nauseated at the overexposure to syrupy goodwill BUT AT LEAST THE KIDS ARE NOT SCREAMING! Actually, we took the twins when they were 3 1/2 to Latvia to see relatives, and on the way back, the guy sitting in front of us said that he had rarely sat in front of such small children who were such a pleasure to fly with. So that made us pretty happy and proud.

Sounds as if you guys are doing great in the travel department!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ Tuesday, August 07, 2007 10:00:00 PM #


If you're anxious about flying have a look at our site at flyingwithoutfear,com

There's bound to be something there to help and give you support...and it's all very user friendly there's nothing on there that would upset a nervous flyer.

Or contact me directly from the site. I'm here to help.

Captain Keith

Posted by Blogger Flying without @ Monday, August 13, 2007 12:34:00 AM #
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