Memoir Nonfiction

I’ve been thinking about my own mortality a lot lately

They say your odds of being involved in a plane crash are slim to none. So why is it I am scared out of my wits to fly on an airplane? And what does Brian Williams of NBC News have to do with this?

As dictated into a small tape recorder while in a car, on my lunch break, February 6… I’ve been thinking about my own mortality a lot lately. In a nutshell, death. Dying. I don’t want to die anytime soon.[ref]I have a wife, two kids, and a dog I love, and my original family and friends and extended family, and I love basketball and punk rock and I want to play lots of basketball and listen to lots more punk rock until I’m old and gray and my grandkids say, “I can’t believe grandpa still listens to Black Flag and Bad Brains and Rancid and Goldfinger and Dead Kennedys at age 86.”[/ref] This thinking of my own mortality, it relates to the fact I have to get on an airplane bound for a destination not my home for business purposes. I would say I am scared to death of flying, terrified truly, to the bone marrow, because actually I am, but I went to the doctor yesterday to check out my options even though I’m not big into medication, i.e. medicating oneself with some synthetic drug to avoid the ups and downs and complexities of everyday life (I’m not knocking it for everyone, please note. When my dad died, I, too, had to get on medication for some time), but I have pretty much been having total/mini/slight panic attacks and/or elevated anxiety and terror as it relates to setting foot, or a single toe for that matter, on an airplane, and I need something to take off the edge; otherwise, my stomach is going to turn into a lake of fire of torment and anxiety, sort of like that scene in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM when the Sankara stones burn a hole through Indy’s satchel. That’s spot on for how my stomach has felt since I learned that I would need to take a plane, not a train or an automobile, out of Hooville.

Right now, as in this minute, I am not fully terrified of flying because as part of my options, my doctor prescribed for me Xanax and I still have a little bit of it left in my system. I only took a 1/2 pill, as recommended by my doctor, and that was to see if the dosage would be adequate for my needs when my flight comes around, wheels warm on the runway. My doctor wanted to make sure what I take is enough in the event I need more. That way, when I get on the plane I’m not in appearance someone suffering PTSD on July 4. I can take 1/2 to 1 pill if I so choose. Plan of attack: take 1/2 pill one hour before takeoff, and, if needed, take the other 1/2 while in the air as I attempt to block out any sounds that seem abnormal, not that I know what normal is, coming from within and outside the plane; or any potential hallucinations such as gremlins on the wings of the plane like that scene from THE TWILIGHT ZONE movie with John Lithgow (1983).

To test the medication to see if it was really working, one of the things I thought about doing, but didn’t and should have, was to sit down and do math problems or sit down and do math problems while nestled in a spider’s nest somewhere while hundreds or thousands of tiny spiders crawled all over my body because I am terrified of spiders, and because math gives me the willies.

A little side note I want to add: that I am meeting some guys I work with coming from Florida in the Philadelphia airport. I’ve never met them before, and so I was telling another co-worker, one based in Charlottesville, that since I have no idea what they look like it would probably be a good idea to send them a picture of what I look like so they’ll know what I look like and who to look for and vice-versa. And then I thought, oh that would be the start of a somewhat creepy email:

Here’s a photo of me. I know it seems sort of creepy I am sending you a picture of myself but I thought it would make sense since we have no idea what each other looks like and we’re riding together from the airport to our meeting.

And then my co-worker in Florida would respond, “Can you at least send a photo with your face?”

So as I was saying, I have to meet these guys because they are renting a car from the airport and I am hitching a ride, so I was thinking that I could get a big white poster board and write in black magic marker on the front, not their names but instead LEBRON JAMES, and then everyone in the airport, unbeknownst they were part of a not so elaborate prank, would gather around me thinking that I was there to pick up LeBron James, because, after all, there is the possibility he is coming to town to play the Philadelphia 76ers, even though the Miami Heat will be in Phoenix AZ, Tuesday the 11th, and won’t be back in Philadelphia until April 16; but see, they won’t know that but I will because I follow the NBA as religiously as people on Facebook click the ‘Like’ button on some inspirational article and/or video posted on or buzzfeed, which has become sort of a content virality farm for the ‘Like’ button in its own nauseating little way.

Or maybe if not LeBron James maybe Mick Jagger for the older crowd or Mick Jagger on Side A and Brian Williams from NBC News on Side B, because I know the older female generation really digs Brian Williams from NBC News. If you’re reading this and you’re over the age of 41, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.[ref]We know[/ref]

Then my co-worker in Charlottesville says, “Yeah, that’d be pretty funny but not if you get arrested,” and while Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love, I am pretty sure I would like to avoid, at all costs, landing in a City of Brotherly Love jail, not that I would of course, and not that I would actually do that thing with the white poster board sign, although I would if my friend Andy was involved because Andy gets a kick out of that sort of thing, sort of like how we went to the Virginia vs. Virginia Tech basketball game the other week, and as we filed out of John Paul Jones Arena, or “The Jack” as certain people referred to it as it was being completed who wanted to sound like total insiders but never could get “The Jack” to catch on though they tried and tried, I did the robot through the crowd like the guy from Chappelle’s Show. You know the guy? That was me. I have no idea if anyone was paying attention to me or not because when you do the robot, you have to look up at the ceiling, so as to get the full effect of doing the robot.

Side note fin.

And thus in an effort to rid myself of the illogical fears of flying, I have been doing some light research on the statistics involved in flying. For example: I have a 1 in 4 chance of dying of cardiovascular disease and/or cancer but only a 0.000014% chance of being involved and dying in a plane crash. Here are some others:

Activity/Diagnosis Odds
Death from heart disease 1 in 4
Death from cancer 1 in 4
Assault by firearm 1 in 340
Car trip death, coast to coast 1 in 14,000
Tornado 1 in 450,000
Train 1 in 1,000,000
Plane fatality 1 in 11,000,000
Shark attack 1 in 11,500,000

While math gives me the willies, these numbers do make me feel a tad better, although I do worry about being attacked by a shark while at the beach on vacation; but then again, I used to worry about being attacked by a shark while swimming in Phenix pool when I was a kid, too. I blame JAWS and Discovery Channel. But mainly JAWS. And bull sharks because bull sharks can swim in freshwater. Diabolical creatures.

I’m going to pause now because I am coming up on an intersection and I don’t want the person beside or behind me to see me talking to myself and think something is wrong with me when little does s/he know that this little tape recorder has become my way to “write” or I should say “get in words” everyday when sometimes that’s not so easy to do anymore with two small children. Priorities. Kids first. Will resume after sandwich.

Photo: Dmitry Terekhov. “Yakovlev Yak-42 airplane.” Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

2 replies on “I’ve been thinking about my own mortality a lot lately”

Bless your heart!! I can’t wait to see how this story ends up. Have a safe trip. Danelle

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