The Anxiety of it All
3 hours into my flight and I finally decided that I probably should have slept more last night. The days before going to Hawaii usually revolve around us drinking Hawaiian beer, packing our final things and securing any last needed details before the trip. I, of course, will always watch a decent amount of itinerary guides on the island. Just for the off chance that I might have missed a small equation of fun to be had. I don’t know why I can’t sleep before a flight. The excitement mixed with anxiety of getting to the airport on time, always seems to keep me awake. I always find alternatives that could happen that make me miss a flight. A car accident that makes traffic go to a standstill, or an Uber drive that decides to kidnap us and end our precious Hawaiian vacation before it even begins. I know it sounds extremely pessimistic of me, but that’s the mind I have been given. Regardless, this causes us to leave extremely early in the morning and we will almost always get to the airport two hours early. After getting through TSA, my mind starts to dissolve any minor factors that will destroy our trip. I guess for some reason, I find that when I have no control, such as in a airplane seat, I find that I’m in good hands? It makes no sense when I think through it. Either way, as I get into the airport, it’s the same ritual every time. I find my gate so I always have a plan of attack to get there if I get caught up. I then search for some type of bar restaurant. Why is it that anywhere else in the world, if you drink alcohol at 6am, people look at you like a raging alcoholic. If you are at an airport, it’s the opposite. I will look over at someone ordering breakfast and see them get a coffee and I question if something is wrong. Did they really get a coffee? They do know that they are serving Bloody Mary’s at this restaurant correct? I start questioning the reasoning behind their choice. Usually at this time, the server comes up to take my order. Do I want a double shot for an extra 4 dollars? Is that even a question?! All too often, I’m surprised at how convincing a server can be at an airport. There really is no selling of a double shot, it’s a quick remark that they are trained to do. It’s more the reality of the fact that in an airport, we all live in an alternative world in a way. I finish my drink along with the meal and continue on my way. Feeling a bit more at ease. A flight to Hawaii is roughly 5 hours from the Bay Area. The time I spend on the flight is usually back and forth between movies and audiobooks. I used to bring books with me, but I’m not sure if I just don’t have the attention span anymore, or I just don’t feel like packing another material object to carry around. There is something much more appealing to the feel and smell of an actual book as opposed to an electronic copy. Maybe it’s also the fact that I have no sign to where the story ends. Somewhere in the middle of every book (based on the amount of chapters left) we decide how the story will end or how many scenarios will happen still. In an electronic version, it always stays the same, which causes a minor annoyance. I get so anxious on a flight that I never really get the notion to fall asleep. Every time, as I try to sleep, I will find that the refreshment carts are too much to pass up. The small treats and free beverage, make it feel like I’m getting my last meal in prison. On the outside, I would never get so excited about a stale packet of pretzels and a sprite. It would be a quick pass. While on an airplane, if I don’t accept the offering from the flight gods, I might be exiled off of the plane. Our snacks aren’t good enough for you?! Then maybe you shouldn’t be flying altogether. It could also be the fact that I just don’t like being different from those around me. Passing on the snacks, I would look across at everyone around me. Pulling their masks down for that small opportunity to catch some air and inhale food. I guess this would be the portion of the prison stay when they allow you into the courtyard for an hour of sunlight. If you don’t take the chance, you are left to your cell for the duration of your time that day. Nobody wants that. Which seat is your preference on a flight? I always have to sit on the aisle, my wife prefers the window. So what do we book? We both book our preferred seats and hope that someone looks at the seating map and says, “there is no way in hell I’m sitting in a middle seat!” How often does this work? Probably as often as you get a free coffee from the person ahead of you in the drive-thru at Starbucks. In my case, it’s pretty rare. My main reason for the aisle seat? In an environment that I have very little control, I feel like I am the gate keeper to the outside. You want to go to the bathroom? What’s in it for me? What’s the offering?! In reality, I just don’t like asking someone to move out of their seat to let me into the aisle. The thought of them being annoyed for one trip, let alone two trips to the bathroom seems to be unbearable. Yet, as the gate keeper in the aisle seat, I really don’t mind moving at all for someone in the inner seats. Maybe other people would feel the same? I prefer not to take the chance. That quick stare as I move from the middle seat into the aisle causes anxiety just thinking about it. This all leads me back to the fact that I’m sitting here writing as everyone around me is off in dreamland. Can you imagine how refreshed I would be coming off of a plane if I actually slept? Instead I decide to walk off and perform like a zombie on my first day of vacation. The people around me will probably be exhilarated and ready to go on their first day on the island. Luckily for them, they will never know that the stewardess came around for the last round of service when they were sleeping. Maybe I should tell them that they missed their chance at freedom for a brief time this flight? Nevermind, I’ll wait until they wake up and stare at me with a half eaten bag of pretzels on my tray table. Aloha everyone.
Chris Hetrick. Author