5 6 '6 7 /
FLYING is an occupational hazard. To say that I am frequently on the air when driving to my destination is impractical.
In the words of Billy Bob Thompson: I don’t have a fear of flying; I have a fear of crashing.”
A while ago I had reason to visit the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in the Northern Cape.
My kite was waiting at Lanseria International Airport in Johannesburg.
The host was kind enough to charter a bird for us.
When one thinks of a charter plane, one thinks of luxury.
Alas, the minute I laid my eyes on the aircraft on the runway, my hopes fizzled.
It looked like a Nissan E20 minibus with wings. Indeed, when you board, you had to bend slightly as you would in a minibus taxi.
There were also no air hostesses; those beautiful souls in uniform that make flying a pleasant exercise just by sashaying between the aisle.
Instead, there was a cooler bag at the back with refreshments to help ourselves. No meals.
The pilots sat so close you could tap them on the shoulder when you extended your hand.
However, they were typically very friendly and reassuring. Soon we were in the air.
As is the custom, the pilot told us the time and distance and the weather conditions.
Worryingly, he told us to brace ourselves for turbulence as we fly over Carletonville.
We hadn’t even had the chance to get properly acquainted with our fellow passengers when we hit the storm.
In a bigger aircraft such as a Boeing or even better, the Airbus, the rattling wouldn’t have bothered me but in that Tazz-on-wings, I truly came to know the meaning of fear.
The storm outside made it impossible to tell whether we were nose-diving or still flying on course.
There was absolute silence in the cockpit as the pilot clearly battled on the controls.
The lady next to me gave me a sheepish smile and for a second I wanted to envelope her in an embrace so that if we died, we arrived in heaven in each other’s arms. I hoped that would be my only ticket to enter the kingdom of heaven: God would say I was chivalrous. Otherwise, nothing in my life thus far suggests that I would enter paradise. As the hymn goes: My sins are higher than the mountain.”
I only restrained myself from hugging the lady because even then, I hoped the storm would be over and I imagined how stupid I’d look clinging to her, in broad day light, in terror for fear of death.
To be sure, we were all terrified, but human beings have the penchant to make mirth of danger in hindsight.
When the storm had passed, I rushed to the cooler bag hoping to mix myself a double gin.
Instead, I was confronted with bottled water and some nonalcoholic beverages.
I went back to my seat in disappointment.
In a week when the rand nosedived after the Hawks summonsed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, I can assure fellow South Africans that the storm will pass.
Let’s just fasten our seat belts.