Charlie, My Patron Saint of Flying
A few years ago, I developed an irrational fear of flying. Intellectually, I know it makes no sense, but neither does a fear of snakes, small places or public speaking.
I became that girl anxiously waiting for the captain’s announcement because that meant we didn’t lose an engine on takeoff. Can you imagine the horror flying out of Orange County airport for the first time? For the love of god, you need to tell people they CUT the engines for noise compliance. That was a tense and tearful few minutes…
I love to travel. I’m really good at taking vacations! So this phobia was really difficult. I can’t completely pinpoint the moment the fear got bad. But I would dread my magical trips until the plane touched ground. Then about two days prior to going home, I’d get the dreads again. No fun.
My girlfriend, Lissa, shares a similar fear of flying. We’d trade stories and compare stupid tactics to trick us onto planes. Lissa’s stand-by is to knock herself out completely for as much of the flight as possible (not a bad plan). Mine was to get an engrossing book, start it a few days before my trip, get to a good part then make myself wait until it was time to fly. In essence, rewarding myself for getting on the plane at all. Her plan is better.
Lissa’s former client was from South Africa. He told her that every time he and his wife got on a plane, they looked to the left wing to thank Charlie for safe travels. They would immediately feel safe knowing Charlie was on the plane with them. They described him as a tall, dark, handsome guy who sat on the wing and who would wave at them periodically throughout the flight.
I loved the idea of Charlie. And I figured it couldn’t hurt, so on my next flight I looked out to the left wing and said thank you. I pictured him immediately. He was tall, dark and handsome wearing a perfectly cut white suit and he was smiling and waving at me. The whole flight, I felt better. I felt that there was someone or something sitting on the wing of my plane guiding me in. I still had some panicky moments, but not like before.
Now I can happily say that with a window seat over the wing and Charlie, I’m a lot better than I used to be. If it’s a smooth flight, I absolutely LOVE to fly. Sometimes Charlie looks like Lenny Kravitz (hey why not?) and other times Morgan Freeman. Both very comforting in their own ways. There hasn’t been a flight I’ve been on in the last two years where I haven’t acknowledged and thanked Charlie. But if all else fails, there’s always Lissa’s go-to method on stand-by.