My knuckles had turned white. I hadn’t realized how hard I was clasping my hands together until I heard the captain announce we had reached 33,000 feet up in the air. As a frequent flyer, this surprised me even more. I have been hopping on and off planes since I was a baby.
Life, motherhood and age change you. We all know that. What I didn’t expect was how my anxiety level would increase every time I board a plane.
I know the odds of being in an accident are pretty low. However, when I fly by myself, my stomach gets tied up in knots. If we encounter turbulence, I start praying relentlessly. Once we land, I breathe and give thanks. This coming from somebody who used to actually enjoy sudden bouts of turbulence in her teen years since it gave her the same butterflies in her stomach as when she was on a roller coaster.
Of course, an emergency landing a few years ago might have had a little to do with it. Or a lot. We were traveling from Mexico City to Miami with my dear friend and executive producer Julia Dangond. We were happy because we had taped great interviews for our Viva la Familia show and I was still wearing my on camera outfit and makeup. I felt pretty glamorous in my fake lashes and high heels since I usually travel in jeans and bare faced. I was excited to get back to Miami, to my children and husband.
Suddenly, there was a weird noise, but I did not pay much attention. I felt as if the plane was going slower but shrugged off that thought. Then the pilot’s voice came through the loudspeaker. He was saying what you really don’t want to hear when you are thirty thousand feet up in the air, at the mercy of others, with no place to go. There was a problem with an engine. We were going to attempt an emergency landing at the closest airport.
I will never forget those long minutes until we landed safely in Mérida, México. Minutes spent praying. The looks we exchanged with my friend said everything although we we speechless.
>We made it safely into the deserted airport and waited for the engine to be fixed. All the while we were debating whether we should board again a defective plane or whether we should trust the Mérida personnnel to have fixed it. There were no other flights to Miami from that airport until two days later. The only other option was to drive for hours to Cancun and then catch a flight the next day from there.
In the end, we reboarded the plane many hours later and landed safely in Miami. Thank goodness. But after that scary experience, I have never felt the same way about flying. To add to my anxiety, I saw Denzel Washington in Flight and got even more nervous. And the icing on the cake was seeing how Mexican American singer Jenni Rivera and her team lost their lives in an accident last December.
However, travel is part of my job. It is a means to an end, and rationally I know my fears are for the most part unfounded. So you can still expect me to be checking in to airports quite frequently, but simply not as fearlessly as I used to do.
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