NADLER: FLYING IN THE FACE OF ANXIETY
Somehow, airlines manage to stress out already stressed-out travellers
On Friday morning at around 5:30, I opened my eyes, pulled the covers over my head and thought about the day ahead. Butterflies. Gnawing. Dread. I was fighting a nasty cold. And in a few hours I’d be boarding a plane from Hamilton to Montreal for a quick overnight visit with my family. In case you were wondering, the feeling of dread was not about the trip to la belle province per se, but about the flight to get there.
I am not a good flyer. I don’t like to fly. I do it because to not do it would be to deprive myself of mind-blowing experiences, of adventure, of learning about other cultures, of real escape.
Travelling is one of my favourite activities, one that becomes more of a luxury the older I get and the more responsibilities I take on. So, yeah. I don’t like to fly but I do it anyway, lest my world becomes way too small.
The dog, as if sensing my anxiety, nudged closer, smothering me with her heavy head and stinky breath. This, of course, didn’t help matters. She always knows when something is up.
And because dogs seem to have all kinds of superpowers like a crazily heightened sense of smell, bionic hearing, spotting wild bunnies a million miles away, I thought to myself, does she know something I don’t? What’s happening here?
But the coffee wasn’t going to make itself (although I suppose it could have, if I took the time to figure out how the timer on my coffee maker works). And I had a list of things to do before heading out to make my 9:40 flight, so I shook it off and got moving. Somehow it was almost 7:30 before I decided to check my email.
FLIGHT CANCELLED were the first words that popped out of my email list. Was this a joke? Spam? Hacker? A gift from the universe?
I looked outside. It was a bright, sunny morning. No rain. No snow. It was May, for God’s sake.
When I checked in online the day before, the flight appeared to be full. Why would my flight be cancelled? It was Mother’s Day weekend! Didn’t they get that it was Mother’s Day weekend??? There would be consequences.
So I phoned the airline. Yup, it was cancelled. They didn’t have a flight crew, I was told flatly. It was almost as if they weren’t a major airline carrier, a hop away from Canada’s busiest city and airport.
They could get me on the Hamilton-Montreal flight at 6:55 that evening. Or they could try to get me on a flight out of Pearson, like that’s the same thing as driving 20 minutes to the Hamilton airport. Even with the addition of the much-needed GO service from Hamilton to Pearson it’s still a pain, albeit a much smaller pain than it used to be: thank you, GO Transit.
My quick and easy trip was turning into a whole big hullabaloo. I know I’m not the only anxious flyer out there and I get that in this case, I wasn’t inconvenienced on purpose.
But when I fly, I like everything to be planned out ahead of time to minimize my stress that day. Lastminute changes, like asking a person to travel to a different city and airport to catch an entirely different flight are, um … stressful, to say the least.
So while it’s great that airports across the United States now employ therapy dogs, therapy miniature horses and, in one case, a therapy pig (San Francisco) to help anxious flyers, perhaps the airlines can consider all the efforts we customers must make to remedy situations they make worse by bumping us from flights and asking us to switch flight times and airports like it’s swapping out a pair of shoes.
Listen up: this is a big deal for a lot of people. We will respond with our dollars. I am not going to tear around like a maniac, trying to make a last-minute flight, because of your mistake.
My family and I were trying to squeeze a long weekend’s worth of activities into one day, so cutting our time in half made little sense. If I were going for a longer stay, I would have made other arrangements for that day, but I decided to rebook for another weekend instead and hope my reservation holds.
I plopped onto the couch and took in my spotless home that pretty much only ever gets cleaned when I’m expecting someone to stay over with my pets. This is why I normally take the train, I thought to myself.
Then I shook it off, got up and took the dog for a long walk.
I don’t like to fly. I do it because to not do it would be to deprive myself of mind-blowing experiences, of adventure, of real escape
Last minute changes, like asking a person to travel to a different city and airport to catch an entirely different flight are, um … stressful, to say the least.