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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Fear of Flying

It is both a good and a bad thing that, with many thanks to my parents, I spent many grade school summer vacations traveling. A good thing, because it gave me a taste for adventure, a familiarity with the exotic, and priceless memories and stories. A bad thing, because after I came to college, staying in LA during the summers, my jetsetting began to peter out. When I was younger, flying to one new place or another was routine, a part of the yearly cycle. Now, it's strange, distant, surreal to think of stepping foot on an airplane.

It's a bit scary.

The last time I flew was April of 2002, when, in the midst of final projects and insanity, I flew to Disney World to cheer on my brother's robotics team. Before then, it was September 9, 2001, returning from a perfect weekend in Washington, DC.

I haven't been afraid of planes since the age of five, when I clenched the armrests as we flew over the Pacific for the first time. Flying above the ground was fine, I figured, but if what if something happened to us over the ocean? We'd be lost to the waves. And I wasn't a very good swimmer.

Now, of course, I know that you don't walk away from plane crashes, not even ones on land. Instead, I'm afraid of men with nail clippers and other preposterous things. That April flight left me shaky, certain something horrible was going to happen. When I came back to LA, it felt like all the luck in the world rushed into that moment when the wheels touched down.

Since then, I've been driving in search of the buzz I once got from hopping around the world. I've driven or ridden up and down this vast state, with friends or family or sometimes alone -- my feet on the ground, my hands clenched around the steering wheel. In control.

But, see, I'm this employed young woman with vacation days and a decent salary. And there's this country I love called England.

And, as of yesterday, I have a plane ticket to Heathrow for late March. Gonna crash with a gal named Caz, see me some sights. Drink a real Schirmoff Ice and eat fish and chips.

I'm looking forward to it more than I can say, but I'm a little nervous about the flying. It's this morbid streak spreading through me like gray hairs. It makes me touchy. It makes me see death everywhere.

But if I'm going to die, I want to see England again before it happens.

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