american airlinesFor a long time I have been saddled with an odd superstition that has compelled me to cross my fingers during take-offs and landings. In recent years, though, the deep fears this ritual has masked have surfaced, and I have not been able to think about flying without also feeling a sense of the deepest dread.

This past week, I had to travel across country for my new job and had, also, to confront this dread. I need to tell you, though, that a cross-country flight on American Airlines is no place to face your fears of flying. For the first leg of my flight out, I was made to sit in a seat as wide as a carrot, and my claustrophobia kicked up a fuss. As I settled back uncomfortably, a large, gray, beshelled bug crawled out from between the seat back and headrest in front of me. I shrieked inwardly, swatted it away, and spent the rest of the flight thinking it would crawl into my carry-on bag and reappear once I got home.

On the second leg of the flight out, I shoehorned myself into my assigned window seat and passed my time trying to avoid the thigh and arm of the gentleman next to me whose body parts were spilling everywhere. Eventually, I became so claustrophobic that I went looking for, and found, the one aisle seat remaining. It was right near the bathroom, which did not have water for washing hands; instead, the sink was filled with packets of lemon-scented towelettes.

The plane for the second leg of the trip home was very late. Once it arrived, we boarded; settled in; and, after a long wait, learned that the door would not close and that there was something wrong with the fuel system. We were happy to de-plane and hike across the airport to fetch another one. After sitting on that one for a good amount of time (during which I focused my attention on the ripped and raggedy seat diagonally across from mine), we discovered from the pilot that there was a problem with the door of that plane as well. Happily, it was repairable, and we made it back in once piece—though many hours after we were supposed to have arrived. Can you guess what I did the minute I got home?


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