NADLER: FLY­ING IN THE FACE OF ANX­I­ETY

Some­how, air­lines man­age to stress out al­ready stressed-out trav­ellers

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - Sh­eryl@sh­eryl­nadler.com

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

SCYTHER5, GETTY IM­AGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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.

SH­ERYL NADLER

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