Fear of Flying: Ruminations of a Former World Traveler

Fear of Flying, I have often observed, lingers long after some of us have made their peace with flying.

On the eve of our departure to Israel, I am reminded of an email my friend Eve sent a few friends after her flight from Miami to Australia, which I would like to share with you, along with my response: You will enjoy this, I guarantee it! It might also take the edge off our fear of  flying (heightened by reports of snow storms and canceled flights all over the country). I hasten to mention we are traveling economy class, with the masses …..


What a blessing to be back downunder where the sky is blue and the air crisp and cool—not cool enough to warrant heat for these hardy Ozzies, soI will be blue for the duration of my stay here!

My (hundred-year-old) mother has not aged in a year and a half, B”H: in fact she looks better, free of pain and pills. She truly is remarkable. She did not recognize me at first, due to my new straight hairstyle, which she made no bones about telling me she did not like!!

It may well be that only 6 degrees separates us on terra firma, but flying high in the sky at almost 40,000 feet, the degrees of separation between economy and business class  are at least 100.

Business class is another class of travel altogether–there is just no comparison between flying in the front of the plane or languishing in the rear.

Seldom,if ever, have I been pampered and catered to as I was in this spa in the sky, where the personel are paid to make the travellers happy and satisfied, paying constant attention to their every need…they ply one with food and drink throughout the journey, supply pajamas, a travel kit which includes face/hand creams for women and surely overstrain their facial muscles from smiling agreeably throughout the trip.

The pampering extends to the lay-overs, that interminable dead time usually spent lugging hand luggage around stores, examining the wares to pass the time, sitting in a stupor at the gate….au contraire, business class travellers are granted access to the Admirals’ Club, ( admirals know a thing or two about living); complimentary snacks, coffee, softdrinks, 2 vouchers for drinks, large, comfortable chairs, showers, computers, all located on the 3rd floor overlooking the concourse below, buzzing wih harried, less fortunate travellers.

Even the dreaded encounters with security, passport control and customs officials, personel who are certainly not paid to make you happy or at ease, little people given a rare chance at power and control which they have no difficulty using; whether it was the business class boarding pass or not, this time they were friendly and less intimidating.

Based upon the comfort and relative ease of this trip–a mere 32 hours and 45 minutes—I now resolve to whip my piece of plastic out at every opportunity in order to accumulate the requisite number of points to travel in this manner in the future.

Reading the above I realize that while I would like to appear to the manner born, I fear I sound more like Alice in wonderland, enthusing about the treament reserved for the “haves.” As if! As if I have ever been a “have-not” in matters that count in life.

I am now trying to beat the jetlag. Luckily for me the computer is available in the wee hours; not so lucky for anyone receiving detailed accounts of my luxurious trip—who would have thought such an adjective would be used to describe the dreaded trip downunder.

I hope all is well with you all. I am actually missing the heat!

Take care.



Hi Eve, So nice to get your notes! I must tell you: The flying industry being in the dumps lately, I don’t think anything will give it the proverbial shot in the arm better than the description of your flight. In one fell swoop, you made your generous contribution toward restoring the beleaguered airlines (wow: a couple gin and tonics can really put some people in a benevolent mood!), and you made me actually consider, albeit very briefly, a trip to Australia.

I used to travel everywhere, spend  weekends literally in another country (totally doable if you live in Europe: When I lived in Strasbourg we often spent our weekends in Basel, and the culture shock was dealt in the course of a short drive, brief but enduring), but since I live on this humongous continent, however far I go, it still is America: Its highways, its malls, its diners, its parks, thousands upon thousands of miles of unrelieved abundance verging on excess wherever you turn. So except for a few trips abroad, I have resolutely sworn off any extravagantly long trips, preferring sushi-decaf-americanos-walks-in-the-park-hikes-museums-operas-jazz anytime; in fact I felt no guilt whatsoever not visiting my son even once when a bachur spending 1 1/2 years in Sydney, and later letting him know and his then future bride in no uncertain terms, when they got engaged and were contemplating living there, that they should think about it long and hard, as we are not picking up and going there anytime soon, and the separation will be crushing on all sides (Thank Heaven,  they settled in Washington Heights: we are neighbors and visit all the time)

How do I deal with my fear of flying? I am still at the stage of trying to make my peace with asking very mundane and rather personal, even marginally scatological questions, to extra-long flight veterans, questions I think even a journalist for National Geographic would show restraint before asking: So, umm, how do you pee?  What if you need to go and you have a window seat and the guy next to you is snoring, using your numb shoulder as a pillow? Would you be so hearltess as to shove him awake? Were do you brush your teeth? what if the baby seated behind you can’t stop shrieking, or puking? What if you realize your packed your deodorant with your check-in luggage? But don’t worry, my questions are not all so intrusive. Some of them are tamer and somewhat more civilized, and go, did you make sure you confirmed your kosher meals (good mom that I am I did ask my son Yakov but too late: he had forgotten. A very kind passenger seeing his plight kept feeding him a banana every couple hours. He didn’t turn into a monkey, no, but he developed a good and healthy banana addiction)? Did you make sure you took War and Peace with you? Did you take some Ambien?

If I ever take that trip, I want to be written up for posterity, all the way up there with the great adventurers and explorers. By the way, an eleven-year-old little girl named…. Levana, living in Sydney, and named after the Indian Goddess of fertility (my mother’s reasons for bestowing the unusual name on me were infinitely more prosaic by comparison) surfed the web about three years ago in an attempt to locate a namesake in this wide world, and found me: My adorable little pen pal! I hope she makes a trip to NYC when she gets old enough and before I get too old! Meanwhile I am content exchanging emails and gifts with her, and even with her parents!

I hope you find your mother well and alert for many more years to come. She doesn’t like red hair: OK, we can live with that!


2 replies
  1. Lévana
    Lévana says:

    Hi Cyrel, did you at least enjoy your forced vacation and California’s beautiful weather? I’m only hoping we will have no trouble leaving Sunday with the latest snowstorm!
    Hoping to see you next week: as I told you, we will be working on photo shoots all of Tuesday and all if Thursday, let me know if you might be able to drop by. Xoxo

  2. Cyrel Deitsch
    Cyrel Deitsch says:

    Very cute. Yes, the hassles of travel. It just took me an extra week to get back from the west coast. Enjoy your trip.

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