BLOG – Thou Shalt Not Whine – Introductory Lesson

Introductory Lesson

Flying without Whining

I begin with airline travel since overcoming whining while zooming through the air has been one of my greatest achievements in life. 

I was the first one in my family to ever fly in an airplane, and not too many of them, besides me, have done it to this day, coded as they are with the Whining About Flying DNA glitch. My Grandma always said that if God had wanted her to fly, he would have given her wings—and she truly meant it. This wisdom applied to driving for her too. She wasn’t born with tires attached to her legs, so she wasn’t about to ride in a car! 

In 1963, despite my inbred terror, I flew to Miami on Eastern Airlines for an interview to become an airline stewardess. I experienced such an incredible adrenaline rush on take off that I was barely able to breathe, let alone talk. In the air, I was thrilled to be defying the Law of Gravity. The landing was a cinch, since by then not only had I somewhat acclimated, but I had been able to drink enough wine to get me down without screaming or making a scene. Long story short, I was hired, but too proud to admit I couldn’t fly without whining. Actually I was so desperate to escape my boring life in Detroit that having to fly wasn’t enough to stop me.

Doing that job, I simply couldn’t whine on pain of dismissal, so I just enacted some recessive stiff-upper-lip gene and smiled through my troubles. Despite my continuing terror, I really wanted to be a stewardess in the worst way, and sometimes I certainly was.

Years later after my first husband was killed during a test flight, I continued to put on a brave front about flying for the sake of my children. Besides, I am addicted to doing things that scare me silly, especially when I am trying to stop whining about life.

To this day, it has been difficult to overcome the urge to indulge in whining while flying, mainly because I never have been able to understand how it all works. No matter how many times my second and current husband, also a pilot, explains to me the mechanics of flight, I still don’t get it. I never will be able to comprehend how a 747 airplane that weighs tons can lift off and soar through the skies. 

I do, however, have my own theory about how planes work: When I am on a plane during take off and lift my toes upward, the plane will lift up and off without any problems. I don’t know if not doing it might cause a crash because I have never, ever not done it. I must confess that this is not an original theory but rather one that was passed on to me early in my career. It came my way from an older, wiser and far more experienced stewardess who had already conquered her fear of flying. Upon the announcement of landing, one need only reverse the process and point the toes downward, and the plane will touch down with a comforting, fluid grace.

I can somewhat justify my previous problem of whining while flying because I experienced some really scary moments up in the air as a stewardess: emergency foamed-runway landings, hearing about other fatal accidents while serving cocktails, extreme conditions that made my life flash before my eyes—these were all part of the daily routine in my chosen career; another important part of it was to keep those things from the passengers so that they wouldn’t completely freak out

As for being a passenger, what’s not to whine about, especially now with increased security, longer delays and an alarming trend for lost baggage? Fortunately, there’s no more whining about the poor quality of airline food since actual food is no longer served to those in coach. As Wolfgang Puck once said, “To me, an airplane is a great place to diet.”

Over the past few decades, I’ve considerably decreased the likelihood of my whining about flying because I can almost enjoy it when my pilot husband is in the cockpit. I can even sleep while he’s up front because I know that there is someone driving who wants to live as much as I do, if not more.

One of our favorite flights together was when we were invited to land on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in a Navy plane. Once on board, I spent the entire night thinking about being catapulted off the deck the next morning. It was terrifying when it happened, but I didn’t whine. I screamed a little as we were shot off the ship but I didn’t wet my pants.   

It seems my destiny was to fly, to wed fliers and to raise fliers. I have one daughter who is a pilot, two daughters who have been fight attendants and a son who is a non-whining frequent flyer. Even after all these years, I’m still a white-knuckled flier, but at least now I can talk about it. Take it from me: It’s possible to be fearful and brave at the same time just as long as you don’t whine about it! 

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