Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I Want To Fly Like An Eagle

Before I delve into my totally reasonable response to air travel, something completely different. About three months ago, my daughter did a Kickstarter for a new social media idea, Xirkl. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. I might be a little prejudiced but I think she did a good job. Quite a few other people did as well; she hit the magic fundraising number and has spent the past couple of months working with many smart people to get it ready. The Kickstarter supporters got first dibs on their names and now…it’s your turn! Go here and get yourself the name of your choosing, five letters or more, for ABSOLUTELY NO MONEY! FREE! GRATIS! I CAN’T THINK OF ANY OTHER WORDS FOR IT! Think about it; for once, you could have a name on social media like “Thomas” not “Thomas1042”

GO DO THIS RIGHT NOW! And then come back and I’ll tell you about my relationship with flight.

"You know that being afraid of flying is completely irrational, right?"

If you're in my life, you've told me this. Friends, family, loved ones, the guy at the broccoli stand at the farmer's market, you've taken the time to tell me I'm nuts.

I'm well aware you feel that way. But let me explain the truth and then you will understand that is not me who is irrational, but YOU! You, flyers, you are the foolish ones! You will join we enlightened few who get nauseated at the smell of jet fuel and the thought of an Adam Sandler movie on a small screen!

Flying in an airplane is much safer than driving in a car.

Everyone begins with this one. Everyone. And yes, statistically, the thing on the ground is far more likely to kill you than the thing in the sky. But most people spend far more time in a car than an airplane so it has greater chances of being the thing that kills you. Also, you know what cars have? Fender-benders. Scrapes. Things I believe what the insurance industry refers to as “Whoopsies.”  Because when the driver makes a small mistake or the car has an off day, it doesn’t then PLUMMET MILES TO EARTH. I speak from some experience having been in no fewer than five car accidents where the car was totaled.

(All but one of these, I was a passenger, You might want to let me drive.)

The worst of my accidents was on the freeway, involving a lawn chair flying off an RV, caroming under our wheels, causing us to spin out, hitting the center divider six times and ending up facing oncoming traffic. I was cut from the car. I did not feel well but felt considerably better than if all of this had happened MILES IN THE AIR and no, I have no idea how in the plane version of this accident a lawn chair gets miles into the air.

For a while my mantra on planes was “Naomi Campbell” because, well, she flew all the time for decades – even on those mechanized mosquitos which take you to tiny expensive Caribbean islands – and not only is she not dead, she has a Russian oligarch billionaire boyfriend. I don’t know why that last bit mattered but it gave me some comfort. Statistically, if flying is going to kill someone, it should have gotten Naomi Campbell long before me.

But this only works until I realize we’re MILES IN THE AIR IN A TUBE FLOUTING PHYSICAL LAWS I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.  Which is when I have a drink and settle into my favorite in-flight isometric exercise: not screaming.

But while flying to Italy, I cannot drink to the point of indifference because I will be with the kid and her lovely fellow students, and starting this adventure reeking of vodka and nap-drooling will, I fear, set the wrong tone. Neither can I scream quietly and clutch strangers while mumbling “I take refuge in Naomi!” because I believe that would do my daughter permanent social harm. Which leads me to the most recent person to tell me I’m a lunatic: my hypnotherapist.

I love hypnosis, as I’m ridiculously susceptible. It’s like a controlled nap. I’m listening to the tape and I hear her tell me to start counting backwards from ten and the next thing I hear is “Three, two, one. You feel awake and refreshed.” And I do! Of course, a half hour has passed and I have no idea what my post-hypnotic suggestion is. I choose to believe it’s what we discussed in the meeting, that I will be calm and happy on the flight. She could, however, be encouraging me to find my inner Naomi by deciding a stranger on the flight is my assistant and throwing a phone at her head. With mere days left until we travel, my only prayer is that my version of Naomi combines her airborne sangfroid with my lousy pitching arm.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Let My Spirit Carry Me

Let me explain why I haven't been writing:

Because nothing actually changed.

I mean yes, the Kid has gotten taller and older. In fact, she is now three inches taller than I am and even tried patting me on the head once; let me assure you that will happen exactly once. On the whole, however, my life has had a certain marvelous sameness. I still have two cats and a dog. I'm still reading. I'm still figuring out I've had too much green tea but usually three cups after what should have been my last cup. I'm still living with the fabulous and patient Consort. My feelings about buttered toast remain undimmed. After seven years of blogging about my life it was impossible not to notice I seemed to be running repeats when, in fact, I was writing about a whole new day – which just happened to sound exactly like quite a few days I'd already led. You know that quote about "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" My answer would be: "I'll go to Trader Joe's and then I'll get the dog his thyroid medication but not until I've spilled tea in my lap." As a person, I was fine with this; the writer in my head, less so. So I swore I wouldn't come back here until I had something to write about.

Ladies, gentlemen, and people in between: I have something to write about.

I don't know if this has come up before, but the Kid wants to be multilingual. Because of homeschooling (yes, we're sort of still doing that), we were able to shift her schedule to allow her to study languages now, while her brain can absorb a new language and doesn't just spit it back out in confusion and terror. She's learning Spanish, Chinese and French, but her real love is Italian. I can't blame her. First of all, it's just so appealing. To my untrained ears, it sounds like water spilling over beautiful rocks, if water was capable of waving its hands. And who wouldn't want to learn a language where, if you say it correctly, they give you Italian food? So when, back in January of 2015, she heard about an opportunity to spend a month in Italy this January, learning the language in an immersive and culturally appropriate way, and then begged to be allowed to go, what did I say?

I said "Of course you must go!" in a cheery and supportive tone. Why did I say that?

Because I assumed that while this certainly sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime, I knew she wouldn't really go because she'd continue to live the life she's always led up to that point; that she'd be frightened of new things, of new adventures, and that while she'd flirt with the idea for a few months, she'd find some reason not to go and, secretly, be relieved it didn't work out.

I overlooked one critical aspect of her personality: she isn't me.

She's going to Italy.

And because this program isn't designed for minors and she is a minor,  both the program and her family agreed it was necessary she have a parent join her. We had a family meeting in September and considered our options:


1. Speaks some Italian
2. Has been to Italy
3. Loves traveling
4. Loves food and wine
5. Enjoys meeting new people
6. Is basically cheerful in a hand-waving sort of way
7. Can do his work online


1. Terrified of flying
2. Hates traveling
3. Fears variables
4. Doesn't care that much about food
5. Falls asleep if she drinks red wine
6. Was the emotional model for Eeyore
7. Prefers the company of cats
8. Doesn't speak a word of Italian
9. Can do her work online

The Kid thought for a minute or so and said, "I vote for Mom."

Consort smiled broadly and said, "I hoped you'd say that. You two are going to have the best time."

Dear readers, I think we're back in business.