A moment of fear

Two weekends ago, B and I went to our first wedding since attending our own.  As was expected, I had mixed feelings about going, mainly because I love weddings, but I knew it would also trigger some sadness leftover from grieving the yucky parts of Brian’s and my nuptials.

I did feel some sadness, especially when watching the bride and groom do the traditional things that Brian and I didn’t get to do the way we had hoped.  But.  Overall, we had a blast and took full advantage of the fact that we were at a wedding that wasn’t our own.  The best part was that we got to dance like mad fools.  It was liberating, as if every spastic movement my body made was shaking off the grief and flinging it aside.  We definitely took this opportunity to create another little corrective experience for ourselves.  I’m proud of us, and each day this wedding crap gets just a little smaller and more distant.

The wedding we attended was in Southern California, and Brian actually flew us down for the occasion.  (For more stories on what it’s like to fly in a tiny aircraft with your pilot partner, try this post and this one.)  I hadn’t flown with Brian for quite some time, and it had been a couple of years since I had flown with him for any great distance (this flight was set to take 2-3 hours one way, depending on the wind conditions).  Looking back, I think it might have been due to my intermittent depression and the time elapsed since I last flew, but I found myself running through morbid scenarios in my head about what might happen if we crashed.  Honestly, I think I was just feeling insecure and vulnerable in general, and then the thought of putting my life into someone else’s hands in a tiny-ass plane with no oh shit handle (see previous posts) compounded the swirling in my head.

The plane ride down to the wedding was great.  We had very little turbulence (which makes my anxiety go through the roof in such a small plane) and everything went pretty smoothly, despite strong headwinds that made the trip last a little longer than expected.  I felt calm, and the trip reminded me that flying can actually be fun.

The return flight began without problems, but ended very abruptly in what I can only describe as the most terrifying 10 minutes of my entire life.  We took off a few minutes after 1pm, and it was about 1:30 when I got out my ipad because I had just had an idea for a blog post, of all things.  I was typing away when I heard the usual roar of the engine quickly dim and sputter and then return to normal in the span of about two seconds.  My head shot up and looked at Brian.  “Did you do that?!” I demanded.

The look on his face made a chill run straight through me.

“No,” he said, “That wasn’t me.”

Brian flew into action, pushing buttons and pulling levers.  My heart rate skyrocketed and my muscles went completely rigid with fear.

And then it happened again.

At this point I remember looking down at the ground below us.  It was all foothills and mountains.  With my untrained eye, I couldn’t see any place where we might be able to make an emergency landing.  My fear turned to panic.

I don’t pray in the traditional sense, but now I was doing the closest thing to it.  Please, just let us live.  Both of us.

I did the only thing I could do at that point: I focused on calming myself down (or at least containing my fear) the best way I could.  I turned off my ipad, threw it in the back, shook some tictacs into my mouth, and put on a playlist I especially designed to calm me down when I am stressed out at work.  I closed my eyes and focused on breathing.  I pretended that I wasn’t in a plane, that my ass was firmly on the ground.  I was able to get my muscles to relax for a few seconds.

Brian immediately turned the aircraft steeply to the left, back towards a small airport we had passed a few minutes earlier.  Since the airport was on the left side of the aircraft, Brian had seen it but I hadn’t.  Plus, he was the one with all the navigational charts and maps.

Brian then got on the radio and told air traffic control that we were experiencing engine issues.  He explained the temporary loss of engine power we had experienced and they asked how many souls were on board, how much fuel we had, and if he wanted to declare an emergency.

Souls?!  Why does he need to know that?  So that when we crash, they can know how many bodies they are searching for?!

Brian said he didn’t want to declare an emergency, but he did want to land as soon as possible.  Air traffic told Brian to switch to another frequency so the small airport could talk to us without any other aircraft interfering.  They offered to let us land on a runway that would have required Brian to circle the pattern, which would have taken time.  Brian saw another runway that we were headed straight towards, and he also requested a straight in approach.  The airport gave us the go ahead – whatever we needed to be able to land asap.

Brian pointed up ahead for me.  “See that runway?  That’s where we’re going to land.”

Once I had a target, a destination in place, I focused on that and time seemed to stand still, but my mind did not.

Would the engine hold out until we got on the ground?

Would we be able to land safely from this altitude, from this speed?

I looked down again, because the straight in approach meant that we were now flying over a densely populated area.  Now I was praying for the safety of the people below us.  If we didn’t make it, I didn’t want anyone else to be hurt as a result.

I was completely freaking out, still not really sure how much danger we were in, and all I wanted was comfort from Brian, which he couldn’t give me.  Both of my hands were clinging to the oh shit handle, because that was all I could do.  I couldn’t help, and I wasn’t fully understanding the situation, so my job was to trust Brian,  let him do his job, and not get in the way.

There was a lull in Brian’s communication with the tower, and I could tell that the engine still didn’t sound like it was running correctly, so I turned to him and asked, “Are we going to be ok?”

My voice came out sounding like I was 5 years old.  I didn’t even recognize it as my own.

Brian looked at me and paused.  “Yes.  We’re going to be ok.”  I knew that Brian wasn’t sure, and I love him for saying the right thing.  Nevertheless, I remember a whine escaping my throat that reminded me of a lonely puppy.

It took forever for us to reach the airport.  Indeed, Brian was trying to slow the aircraft down and still get us on the ground in as short a time as possible.  We were lower now and Brian said that he was going to put the airplane into a “slip,” which meant we ended up flying in sideways to create a bunch of drag and slow the airplane down enough to land.

It was a nail-biting landing for me, but Brian did a fabulous job as far as I was concerned.  He taxied so we were just off the runway and then cut the engine so we could get out and wait for the firetrucks that were now screaming towards us.

I immediately felt relief, and I also felt this numbness, this urge to act like nothing had just happened.

We got out of the plane, and we just kind of stood there for several minutes not knowing what to do.  It was cold and windy (and I think my body was in shock) so Brian got me out a sweatshirt.  But it was quite a while until we actually looked at each other, hugged, and emotionally acknowledged what had just happened.  We were also standing around and waiting with mechanics and firefighters who started to show up, and we oddly cracked some jokes and had a few nervous laughs.

To wrap up this long story, we spent another several hours at this airport waiting for the maintenance crew to figure out what was wrong with the engine and we ended up renting a car and having to drive the last 5 hours home, because there was no way in hell I was getting back into that plane, fixed or not.

We arrived home very late, very tired, and very traumatized.  I’m not sure that I’ve still fully processed this, hence the blog post. The process of writing it was interesting, because I had trouble putting all the events in the correct order.  It interests me how selective and fallible our memories can be.

After talking about this with Brian, he explained exactly what happened and I realized that I had irrationally assumed that if we had lost engine power, we would have just fallen out of the sky – which was the source of the majority of my panic.  Brian ended up doing some calculations, and had we lost all power, we still would have been able to glide to that airport and land – which both boggles my mind and makes me feel better.

The end result is that I plan to take some form of a “pinch hitter” course – a crash course in how to land a plane (pun intended).  The idea of taking the course scares me, but not as much as not taking it does.  At any rate, that experience should also make for another good story.

Hello, Gorgeous!

My photographer said that the 40s could be summed up with an “Oh, my!” and a skirt twirl.

…we’ll see if that comes through in the photos.

*I am wolf-whistling at myself as I look at this*
Thems victory post-war birthing hips.

Thems victory post-war birthing hips.

Basically, I was born in the wrong decade.  My hips belong in the 40s and 50s and my feminist brain belongs in the 60s and 70s.  And I think I lost my ovary in the Great War.

Anyone call for…..a pilot?!

This is like the best picture ever.  Brian’s inner child was squealing with joy like a greased pig who just outran Christmas dinner.  That, and he looks damn sexy.  Coolest part: there was no wind while this pic was taken.  Whaaaat.

I look forward to the professional images, because if we look this amazing on my iphone, we’re going to look like frickin old movie stars and shit.

Best part for me: I think I ended up looking a lot like my grandma.  Must unearth a picture of her for comparison.

Don’t forget, Psychos!  Send me emails to tell me how you’re gonna turn my online wedding to Shirtless Ryan Gosling into a drunken love circus!  I *just* found out he’s Canadian – what the what?!  I didn’t know they made beefcakes that beefy.   Deadline is March 31st.

This is not a blogpost.

I have zero energy today, and so this post isn’t really a post.  It’s a nonpost, an anti-post, if you will (will you?).  But I wanna post something, because I haven’t posted in a while.  So here’s a post.  Or not.

Brian and I are getting ready for another photo shoot this weekend – if the weather holds up, that is.  I am sooper excited because it involves Brian flying us around in an airplane, me getting to be a ham in front of a camera, aaaaaaand dressing up.  Like, in a costume.

We went and got said costumes last weekend and had a ton of fun trying them on, and I also did a trial run with my hairdo.

I feel the need...for victory rolls!

I feel the need…for victory rolls!

That’s right, bitches.  This is gonna be rockin’.

Also, consider this a reminder for all y’all who want to be a part of the online wedding action to be had this spring and summer:  I NEEDS THE EMAILS!  Please email me a little description of how you’re gonna wow and amaze me performing your chosen role in my online wedding to Shirtless Ryan Gosling.  Deadline is March 31st.  I think.  psychobabblepants at gmail dot com.

Also also, I am working on a real post.  A funny one.  When my body decides it no longer despises energy, I’ll throw it on up here.  Bible.

Deuces.

Revolutionary Flight

I have so much to say about my trip to Puerto Rico.  Seriously.  I just don’t have the time and it kills me, for I am about to embark on an epic 4 day backpacking trip with 7 people and a dog.  And I am also currently very sleep deprived because I’ve had no time to pack, work, blog, sleep and watch the Olympics at the same time.  This time, I’ve chosen to forgo work and sleep and see what happens.

First things first re: this trip.  You see, I’ve learned a valuable secret.  A conspiracy, even.  I shouldn’t even be here talking to you about this, but I love you and so I’m going out on a limb here.  That’s right, this just got real and has absolutely nothing to do with my Olympics-and-sleep-deprivation-induced-euphoric-paranoia.

The TSA and the airline companies don’t want us to know our real histories, our true abilities, or our amazing destinies.

They do their best to hold us back and keep us in check.  Make em take off their shoes so they can’t run.  Put em through this poly-laser turbo machine so we can see their naked weaknesses.  Buckle your seatbelt and SIT DOWN while the seatbelt sign is lit OR ELSE!
But, while they thought they had us complacent, throwing up into tiny paper bags and breathing oxygen laced with meth through plastic bags hanging from the ceiling, I know their secret.

Hidden in the seatback pocket in front of each one of you is a laminated, vomit-proof illustrated safety card that holds the key to your destiny.

Before flying with my pilot partner, I only glanced at it on my way to the SkyMall (which is not a magazine, it’s a street term for getting high on meth at 30,000 feet) and never really realized what it was.  But Brian actually reads this thing, this rebel pamphlet, and he was the one who enlightened me, and now I pass on the secret to all of you:

We all were born with super powers beyond our wildest dreams.

That’s right, my friends.  Observe:

Please levitate out the door. And don’t take your cardboard squares.

 

Use your laser vision to open the door and fly to safety.

You’d never think this mom-jeans wearing simpleton could blast through metal with one cold stare…that is, unless you were her partner.

 

 

Levitate down the slide. Don’t hide your true super powers. X-men Unite!

And now you know the truth.

You can thank me later, as long as I am not mauled by a bear this weekend.  In that case, you can thank me at my embarrassingly expensive and public memorial service.

Flour Bombs Away!

A few Saturdays ago (I can’t remember just how many Saturdays ago, because my world has been delightfully turned upside-down since then, and time has been standing still in this blissful reverie of mine, except when that spell is broken by the wafting odor of Brian sitting next to me like he is now, post very-warm-day flight, smelling like dirtymanplane and, well, sweat.) Brian and I competed in a flour bombing competition at the local small airport that Brian flies out of.

we feel the need…the need to WIN. or something.

Flour bombing is where you have a brown paper bag filled with about 2 cups of white flour (we used whole wheat flour when we practiced, cuz we’re healthy like that) and then you fly a plane over this big bullseye painted on the ground, and you drop the flour bags and the ones that land (with a big white -or brown- *poof*) closest to the center of the target win.

Sound fun?!

It sure is!

Sound easy?

Oh hells no.

So, naturally, Brian geeked out on this and he spent days doing these calculations having to do with the weight of the flour bomb, the speed of the aircraft, the altitude of the aircraft, the drag on the bag as it falls, the wind speed and direction, and if a tree falls in the woods, will my cat still throw up on my rug?  Brian tried to walk me through his mathematical genius, but my eyes glazed over and then I left to go eat a donut.

What all these calculations did was give us the angle at which the bag had to be dropped when looking at the target from the air, and with this information, Brian fashioned a bombsight by taping an aviation plotter to a level.  Since Brian had to concentrate on flying the damn plane and not killing us, it was up to me to drop the bombs, so I was to hold the bombsight level with the horizon (hence the level) and then we taped a piece of straw onto the plotter that created the appropriate angle for me to use.  As we flew forward, I looked down the straw, and the moment I saw the target through the straw was when I was supposed to drop the bomb.

Practice flour bomb and bombsight

Now, this sounded all well and good to me on the ground.  Pretty easy, pretty straightforward.   We had it in the bag.

Being the nerds we are, we decided to practice before the actual competition.  So Brian got a plane the night before and we made five of our own flour bags (whole wheat with see-through ziplocks) and we set off.

At the airport, Brian plugged in the wind speed and everything and calculated the drop angle and we taped the straw onto the bombsight accordingly.  We made one flyover to determine what we’d use as a target, and we decided on the windsock which had a big round circle painted around it.   We were ready!

Yeah, I knew it would be windy up there, with me hanging out the window of a Cessna 152, but I guess I just didn’t realize how difficult it would be to simply hang onto the bombsight and the bag at the same time and not let them get ripped out of my hands while my eyes were watering and air was moving so fast past my nose that it was very hard to breathe.

Practice #4

Bomb #1 got ripped out of my hand so quickly that I couldn’t even see where it landed.  We never saw it again, may it rest in peace.  I hope the jackrabbits feast on your whole-wheaty goodness.

Bombs 2 and 3 I actually saw hit the ground because of their contrasting whiteness to the green/brown surroundings, but also because I remembered to look and didn’t get my very expensive headset ripped off.  #2 went off to the left, and so I told Brian to fly more to the right for #3, and then #3 fell right in line with the target, I just released it too late, and so it fell too south.

Being able to adjust for our mistakes made all the difference, because we rocked so hard on 4 and 5.  #4 landed 30 feet from the target and #5 landed frickin 15 feet from the target!!!!  By the time we got on the ground to go see, it was too dark for pictures, but man, WE WERE PUMPED.

Bag #5 and the practice target

I asked Brian if there was a prize for winning the competition, cuz by this point I was actually thinking we had a chance of winning this thing.

The prize?

One free hour of flying at the flight school (worth about $85).

Thanks a lot.  I’ll win anyway just to spite all the flight instructors who were also competing.  I’d planned to just turn around and sell that one hour for twice the price to an unsuspecting jackrabbit.  Suckers.

What sucks about the actual competition was that we didn’t know crucial details like the weight of the bags, the speed, and the altitude rules until the morning of.  I mean, we just entered them into the equation accordingly, but having actual experience at those heights and speeds really makes a difference.  Turned out that we needed to fly 100 feet higher (at 600 feet) and 10 mph faster (at 80 mph) than we had flown in practice.  Plus the bags were twice as heavy, and they were brown, which made them VERY hard to see while falling,  aaaaaand we only got two bags.

Competition bag

So I described flying at 500 feet at 70 mph.  It’s windy.  Now imagine being sucked up into an F5 tornado like in Twister.  Flying with my head out the window at 600 feet and at 80 mph was exactly the same as Twister, because my hair was all messed up, and I wasn’t at all hurt by any of the CG debris that should have severed a vital artery and made me bleed out in a matter of minutes.

I could barely hold the sight steady, let alone hold it at all.  My eyes were watering so I could barely see.  And once I dropped the bag and turned around to watch it fall, I almost lost my headset (ahem, Brian’s very expensive headset) to the angry gods of flight.  I also had no idea where the bag hit the ground, so I had no way of adjusting for my mistakes the way I was able to do in practice.

splat

The competition was way more frustrating than our practice, and I was lucky I didn’t ralph out the window once we hit the ground.  I wonder if that would have counted if I had ralphed from 6oo feet?

Our best bag landed 85 feet away, boo.  We came in 7th out of 15…not too shabby.

the winner’s bag landed just outside the target…had we been competing the night before, WE WOULD HAVE WON.

There’s always next year!

 

Talk to me, Goose

Hokai, so this is me telling the story of Brian’s and my flying day trip to Chico now that I have told all seven of you about what it’s like flying in a tin can with wings and how I deal with the feelings of mortality that result from it (answer: not well).

We drove the short distance to the small airport in our town, went into a small locked office to get the keys to the plane (Brian’s so cool that someone trusts him with a key to this office…dunno how that happened), and then went out to the plane where I gracefully jammed myself into the ever-sweaty co-pilot’s seat and read while Brian preflighted.  Same drill.

Sutter Buttes

Everything was a-ok, so Brian got in, gave me the lovely safety briefing, I popped in a piece of gum, plugged in my ipod (Sara Bareilles to the max), and we were on our way.  The trip there was about 45 minutes to an hour long and was rather uneventful for me.  There was absolutely no turbulence to speak of, even when going over the Sutter Buttes (thankyouthankyou)!  Brian said there was some sort of miscommunication with the air traffic control center where control was supposed to pass him off to Chico’s tower as we went on our merry way, and apparently this didn’t happen, and so when we reached Chico airspace, Brian had to awkwardly announce himself over the radio.  Apparently it was embarrassing because it made Brian look bad, even though it wasn’t his fault.  I tried to draw the undeserved negative attention away from him by cussing out the air traffic controllers over the radio for all to hear.  Too bad it was all in my head.  Silly airplane politics.

 

The landing was smooth into Chico airport.  What wasn’t smooth was that the airport deli was closed and we had been planning to grab some lunch there before heading back home.  This may not sound like a big deal to most folks, but it is to me, and by proxy it is to Brian.  See, when I am well rested, fed, and watered, I look like this:

photo credit to Shady Grove

 

But when I am tired, hungry, and/or thirsty, I very rapidly turn into this:    

 

We have learned this the hard way.  Too many times.  I had an apple, a granola bar, and water with me, so I was very much hoping that that would tide me over.

The other activity for the day in Chico was to visit the airport’s small indoor/outdoor flight museum.  Now, I lost count of just how many damn airplane museums I have been dragged to over the years.  Don’t get me wrong, airplanes are cool, and (to me) the space exhibits that sometimes accompany these museums are even cooler, but I have my limits.  And when I am tired and hungry, those limits drop through the floor pretty quick.

What I find particularly hilarious is that Brian expects me to have a working memory of the different museums and what planes we saw in which museum.  Observe:

Hey Lady, you remember that one big yellow turbo double engine supercool plane we saw at Big Joe’s Fly-By Museum on July 20 at about one in the afternoon about three years ago?

Hell, no.  I don’t even remember ______ .

Well, that plane is here now!  We get to see it again!

Again…for the first time.

——

Back in Chico, we (cautiously) started with the outdoor exhibit and I started on my granola bar.  The outdoor exhibit had about a dozen planes in various states of disrepair.  Here’s what I remember: one was old and Russian, several were homebuilt and extremely small and flimsy looking, one of those homebuilts was yellow.  There was also a toy fighter plane that kids could play in and I wanted very badly to be able to fit into it, but I didn’t even get a chance to try because I was surrounded by potential witnesses.

While walking through the exhibit, Brian asked the docent dude if there was any food nearby.  I think he could sense that my inner trantrum-y six year old was just inches from the surface at this point.  The docent said there was a hamburger joint about a half mile down the road, so Brian and I decided to walk there even though it might make us a bit late getting home.  About a quarter mile down the road, we decide to check our smartphones to make sure we’re indeed going in the right direction.  Alas, gps said that we were still 1.6 miles away from meaty, bready goodness.  At this point I began to lose control as I stomped after Brian heading back towards the airport again.

Brian still wanted to see the bloody indoor part to the museum, so I went to town on my apple and took a moment to sit quietly outside, marinating in my rage, for fear that I might rip Brian’s head off if I didn’t.  Once the apple started to digest, I pasted on a smile and joined Brian inside the museum.  I actually found a wall with signed pictures from lots of awesome astronauts, so I had a little moment of joy looking at Jack Swigert’s and Ken Mattingly’s John Hancocks.  Way cool.

After that, Brian and I made our way back to the winged tin can for our return journey.  I had woken up that morning already feeling like I was coming down with something, and at this point in the day I could feel a migraine coming on from lack of foodage and liquid.  While Brian preflighted, I downed some water with pain pills and chowed down on some emergency cliff bars Brian had on hand.

In times like these, I really rely on music to manipulate my mood, and right then I needed some major calming action, so I turned on some Jack Johnson and tried to sleep.

Midway through the flight I wasn’t feeling too bad, so when Brian asked if I would like to try taking the controls for the first time ever, I said sure.  Man, was that ever weird and terrifying.  I turned the yolk clockwise about an inch or so, and the plane began to slowly turn after a several second delay, which was very unnerving.  After a few minutes as pilot, my mounting anxiety got the better of me and I turned the controls back over.  Then I initiated a conversation about what might happen if Brian were to fall unconscious mid-flight, because now we need to plan for every worst case scenario.  We decided that I would get on the radio and shout that I was in trouble and needed a fighter jet escort, mayday, mayday, breaker, breaker, over!!  And then my anxiety got to dangerous levels just thinking about it, so we changed the subject.

Later on in the flight, I did my awesome job of pointing out another aircraft that was actually pretty close to us by airplane flight standards.  While Brian was trying to maneuver in such a way that would keep us alive, I started reciting lines from Top Gun about how we should take advantage of this opportunity to communicate…you know, the bird?  We should be inverted! I yelled at Brian.  I don’t think he heard me.

The last cool thing about the trip was that Brian heard over the radio that we were passing an area where people were actively sky diving at the time.  I kept watching for either the diving plane or for open parachutes, and just as we were about to land at our home airport, I saw two open parachutes way back behind us.  I was so excited about this that I practically had to clamp down on my mouth to keep from interfering from Brian trying to land the plane.  The second we touched down I dutifully tapped his shoulder and blurted, I saw two jumpers! Back there! But you were landing!  You missed it!

Hungry, Hungry Melissa Crisis averted, as we hauled ass to In N Out as soon as we left the airport.  Success!

Highway to the Danger Zone

On Sunday, my partner flew us to Chico, CA and back.  He’s been a private pilot for almost 2 years now, and it had been his dream to be a pilot ever since he could remember.  When he wants to fly, he rents a plane from the flight school where he earned his license, and it’s not unlike renting a car, actually.  Sometimes I like to go with him, and this time I did.

Maverick and Goose

[Edit: by the time I was done writing this post, it had grown two heads and sprouted a tail, so this post will be about our adventures flying together overall, in general, the background, and the next post will be specifically about our trip to Chico.]

Brian usually flies Cessna 152s (a little two-seater plane made in 1979), and these are the same planes used by the pilots-in-training.  Most of the instructors and pupils are men, and the interiors of these planes are quite small, with little legroom and very narrow seats.  If the other pilots-in-training are anything like Brian was when he was in training, they are very nervous and excited to be in these planes (translation: they sweat a lot).   Somehow I doubt that these planes get cleaned very often or very well, so I think it’s safe to assume that over three decades worth of scared man sweat has been marinating the tattered upholstery.  It’s like wedging myself into a flying men’s gym sock.  Lovely.

minimal legroom

Just like with commercial flights, when I fly with Brian, I always bring a book.  It takes him ~30 minutes to go get the keys and preflight the plane, and I spend that time jammed into my little seat, reading. Preflighting involves checking the oil, fuel, climbing up on the plane and walking around the plane to make sure it’s all safe and stuff.  I’m sure there’s more to it than that.  I just know that I have to keep my feet and knees away from the yolk (steering “wheel”) and foot pedals so they don’t jam into me when Brian is making sure the flaps and shit are in working order.  Learned this the hard way.

preflighting

Brian is required to give a safety briefing every single time he takes a passenger, which means I have heard it a lot.  It’s similar to the one you get on commercial flights, in that most people have it memorized (although I just learned that my sweat receptacle seat cushion does not double as a floatation device, so in the event of a water “landing,” we’re screwed), but it includes some fun extras.  He explains how to buckle and unbuckle the seatbelt, and these seatbelts actually have a shoulder strap (yay! more safety!), but it seems to be designed for a much bigger person, since there is no way to make it tight enough to fit to my body. (boo! doesn’t feel very safe at all!  feels like a useless prop.) 

Side note: this combination of cramped legroom and overly long shoulder strap leads me to believe that the ideal pilot/co-pilot would be a short, fat man. Yet another way society is telling me I have the wrong body type.

Brian goes on to explain that there are three emergency exits in this plane.  I look around…there are?!  Where?!  Sure, he says.  Two doors, and…the windshield.  Yup.  He claims this can and should be kicked out if we ever need to get out and can’t do it via the doors.  My first impression: that would be so kickass to kick out the windshield!  Second thought: how the hell am I supposed to get my legs up over the yolk in this tiny thing to be able to even try to kick it out?  How is a fat man supposed to be able to accomplish this?  I want to see training videos!  Third thought:  sigh, if anything goes wrong, I’m a goner.

The last part of the briefing is basically Brian warning me to shut the hell up when he needs to make a radio call.  Because of the headsets we have to wear, anything either of us says while his finger is depressing the radio button thingy will be heard by whoever is listening to that frequency.  Brian also needs to be listening for other pilots making radio calls, too, and if I am yapping, he can’t hear those.  This means that our in-the-air communication is reduced to me acting like a kindergartener tapping on his shoulder for permission to speak.  Either that or I forget the rules completely and Brian has to hold out his hand abruptly to get me to stop.  Yay safety!

I do great, even have awesome fun, when I fly with Brian as long as there is minimal to no turbulence.  We can be cruisin’ along, having a grand ole time, and the second we hit bumps I am freaking out like…like a kid who loves cake and has run out of cake.  Just kidding.  More like a person who really loves life and has run out of life…or at least someone who doesn’t want to throw up in the very intimate cockpit.  The movement that makes me fear for my dear life is when the plane suddenly drops what feels like 100s of feet but is probably only 10s of feet.  It is during those times when I involuntarily gasp very loudly.  At first, the gasping noise would scare Brian and he’d ask what was wrong, and I would look at him like are you in this same fucking plane with me or what?!  But now he’s used to it and he ignores my panic.  During those times, I also involuntarily grope for something to hang onto that isn’t 1) Brian, or 2) part of the plane’s controls.  This is very hard to do, because there is freaking nothing to hang on to!  Cars come with an ‘Oh Shit’ handle and all I get is this flimsy little strap that is right next to the release that opens the door to the plane??!  Somebody didn’t think this through.  I blame the fat, sweaty, short-legged men.

flimsy handle of death

In the interest of lowering my risk of an early heart attack, I have learned to do things that help to ensure (or try to ensure) that I can maintain my calmness and not panic in the case turbulence does arise.  First, I chew gum.  The minty-ness of the gum helps to calm any tummy upset-ness, and having gum just gives me something to chomp down on beside my own tongue.  I also am able to plug my ipod directly into my headset (but not Brian’s), so I use music as a calming force, and this really does work wonders.  The only problem with this is that I can’t sing along with the music…which I tend to do…loudly…without even noticing it…because of reasons mentioned above in the blessed safety briefing.  Since when did safety override the joy of music?  Sheesh.

Because Brian gets his bloody safety briefing, I get to have one rule, too.  My rule is that Brian is not allowed to say “oh shit!” or any equivalently negative exclamation while we are in flight.  He did this once, and I nearly perished from panic right on the spot.  As my pilot, I need to be able to depend on him to keep me alive and as vomit-free as possible.  Neither of us would appreciate it if, in my panic, I accidentally yanked on the door latch instead of the “stay calm and carry on” handle, and then fell out of the plane to my death due to the shoulder strap that is too fucking long.  Too morbid?  My apologies.  Nothing like being in a small plane to put everything into perspective right quick.

One cool thing that I can do and that Brian appreciates is when I scan the sky for other aircraft and then calmly, precisely point them out to him using the clock system and high/low position words.  For instance, I see a plane straight in front of us but at a higher altitude, then Brian appreciates a good, hearty “Twelve o’clock high!” from me.  Let’s just say he would appreciate that if I was able to overcome my excitement at actually spotting another bird aircraft before it has a chance to plow right into us.  “Ooh, ooh, there’s one!” is usually what he gets from me, complete with excited pointing.  And I usually get the abrupt hand-to-the-face.  My duty is done!  I am such an awesome co-pilot, both in the air and in life.

this is Ghostrider requesting a flyby

Stay tuned for next time when we’ll visit the wondrous land of Chico and I’ll share the there-and-back adventures, which essentially amount to an epic tale not unlike our dear friends Mister Frodo and Samwise The Brave, only we have the foresight to take the [mechanical] giant eagle both ways.

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