I was mid-way through a flight to Chicago when, without warning, we hit some bad turbulence.
Airplane flights, to my mind, shouldn’t feel so akin to boat rides, undulating violently up and down as if riding on unrelenting waves.
I gripped the sides of my seat with wet palms, murmuring the Lord’s Prayer under my breath, as I’ve become accustomed to doing, at the rate of a hyper rosary. I watched the flight attendants (always my litmus test of whether I should panic) walk anxiously up and down the aisle and run to their strap ins. I compared the trip to flights I’ve taken in China and Russia (another one of my turbulence habits)—during which we’d barrel straight up and down on take offs and landings, using the tarmac as seeming bouncy castles. This was, I decided, definitely worse.
The cabin freaked. The woman next to me started laughing feverishly, clutching her silent boyfriend’s hand. A baby cried with colic conviction. A lady screamed. The man sitting two rows behind me, an apparent engineer, continued his highly technical conversation about circuits and factories and currents, using an exaggerated, loud voice in a German accent. “AND THEN YOU ATTACH THE CIRCUITS TO THE TURBINES, SENDING THE CURRENT IN SUCH AND SUCH A WAY AND IT’S REALLY QUITE EFFECTIVE.”
In a little bit, the pilot came on, chuckling.
“This is the Captain speaking. Well, folks, as you can see, we’ve hit some turbulence. Air traffic control had warned that there would be a bit of turbulence and well, [laughs], as you can see, this is more than a little bit. Just hang on, I know it’s bumpy, but we’ll be fine.”
Sometimes it’s those voices that keep you sane. It's the one that says, “Oh, hi. This is terrible, a lot worse than we expected. This is awful and bumpy and hold on—because it’s going to be just fine.”