I found myself sitting at a table with my Mom and one of my Aunties recently, having a conversation about flying. I was slightly complaining about an upcoming work trip. I told them how I liked to travel, but I really disliked the whole flying process.
My Mom quickly agreed that she didn't like being on airplanes either. Although I knew off the top of my head that she had once taken a trip to Minneapolis for a work conference, when I was in 4th or 5th grade, I couldn't think of another time that I knew of when my Mom had flown. That one trip must have been at least 20 years ago.
A few years back, she had talked about wanting to visit my brother, who was living in Chicago at the time. I remember being surprised when she asked me if I knew how to buy a plane ticket. My Mom doesn't know how to work a computer, let alone get on the internet, so I remember wondering at the time, if you could just walk into the airport and pay cash for a ticket, like they do in old movies. Can you? How do people without computers buy airline tickets? I have no idea. I flew with Southwest Airlines and they have the computerized kiosks where you just enter your confirmation number. I'm "old fashioned", I print out my confirmation, but really, it's there on my phone. I can pull up my gmail from my iphone.
My mom thinks that if you turn off your cell phone, the phone company won't charge you for those minutes.
She ended up not going, but my sister and I were left to talk about the what-if's. "Do you seriously want to just send Mom on a plane? What if she gets lost?" "She's a grown woman." "Gabby, I panic when I lose her in the grocery store." "Alright, chill out, I get your point." "Seriously though, what if she missed her flight... do you think she'd know what to do?" "Someone is going to have to go with her."
My mom grew up without a lot of modern conveniences and has just never caught up to the times.
She barely knows how to use a telephone. Sometimes it's just easier for me to dial the phone for her.
I couldn't imagine my Mom flying. I couldn't imagine her organizing a trip, knowing where to go, I couldn't even imagine her figuring out her seatbelt on the airplane.
Over the years, I've heard her talk about her trip to "Minneapolis, Minnesota", in quotes because she never simply said, "Minneapolis" or "Minnesota" and would correct anyone who tried to shorten the location.
Turns out, it had been the only time she had ever been on a plane.
I sat there, listeinign to my Mom and tried to imagine her on an airplane. The closest I could imagine was remembering my Mom's panic as she tried to exit the freeway during rush hour when we made a trip into town. She would scream at us, "HELP ME!!" while waving her arms as cars zoomed past us and other honket at her. She would turn off the radio and simply scream because she was so overwhelmed. We would sit in the car, trying to keep ourselves from giggling so we could announce an opportune time for her to lurch the car forward. "CLEAR! Mom, it's clear! GO, GO, GO!!
I looked at my Mom as she was talking about how awful airplane rides are and I asked her, "Mom... when you went on your trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota... did you scream on the plane?"
She looked at me, surprised and shook her curly head in shame.
"You did!? You screamed!?"
"When we took off. I was soooo scared."
"What did they do? Did the stewardesses hear you?"
"Yah, they came running over to me and tried to get me to quiet down."
"Weren't you sitting with your coworkers?"
"Yah, but they couldn't calm me down."
"Yah, then the stewardesses came over and tried to calm me down. Oh BOY, I was SCARED."
"Yah, and I was CRYING. The stewardess kept saying, 'Ma'am, you're upsetting the other passengers.' but I couldn't help it."
"What about the ride back? Did you cry again when you took off on the flight home?"
"No. I was scared...but I wanted to come home. And I kind of knew what to expect."
Today I thought a lot about that conversation.
I thought about my Mom today as I made my way across the country. I thought of her as I stood in line at a computerized kiosk and entered in my confirmation numbers to print my boarding passes, flashing my driver's license at the agent who barely made eye contact with me. I took off my shoes and removed my laptop from its bag and placed it in a separate bin before TSA Officials asked me to. I walked through the metal detector hoping I wouldn't need to get patted down or have to go through the full body scanner again. I thought of her as I found my gates and lined myself up according to my boarding number, only pausing to hear the confirmation beep as the flight attendant scanned my boarding pass. I thought of my Mom as I buckled myself into the plane, stowed my purse beneath my feet and adjusted the air vents. I only half-listened to the instructions in the event of an emergency water landing.
My sister was right, I have no idea how she'd be able to manage a flight all by herself.
I felt like complaining a lot today, but I remembered that flying used to be a big deal. Flying used to be special and exciting and suddenly, it's become a chore. We're annoyed by the lines and the waiting and not getting the seats we want. It's very easy to be annoyed and short tempered when traveling. I tend to get nauseous (thought I've never thrown up) and I always have a hard time sleeping once I reach my destination. I'll also admit that I panic a little during take-offs and landings too, but really, flying isn't so bad.
Thinking about my Mom screaming on a plane kept a smile on my face today.
Then of course, smiling in the airport just made me look like some kind of weirdo.
Ah well, who cares.