I’d like to welcome Murray Clarke back to my Guest Writer Spot. He’s had stories featured on this page a number of times and always knows how to tell a very entertaining story. Sit back, relax and enjoy!
FEAR OF FLYING
The well-spoken, middle-aged gentleman was sweating profusely, trembling and finding it increasingly difficult to breathe.
‘I … I’m sorry, I can’t do this,’ he said.
Louisa, the senior member of the cabin crew, smiled at him reassuringly. ‘Of course you can, Sebastian. How many times have you flown before?’
‘Lots,’ he replied.
‘Exactly. So why should this time be any different?’
‘I don’t know. It’s … it’s just the news — so many crashes recently. My nerves are off.’
‘Aerophobia, the fear of flying, is more common than you’d imagine,’ she said. ‘Look, we’re sitting on our own at the rear of the plane. Still on the ground. Got you on before all the passengers board.’ Louisa took his hand. ‘You feel so cold,’ she observed. ‘You really are scared, aren’t you?’
‘Now, listen to me,’ she said, thinking of her training manual. ‘Focus on your breathing. Breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose for a count of five … and breathe out again through your mouth.That’s good. Now, repeat the process until you feel calmer and your breathing returns to normal. Now, close your eyes and tell me what you can hear?’
‘A low humming sound,’ said Sebastian.
‘That’s the generator powering the electrics on the ground outside. Nothing to worry about.’
‘The A.P.U. — auxiliary power unit,’ he explained.
‘If you say so. You obviously know more about the aircraft than me.’
‘I’ve studied everything about the aircraft before getting on board today. Do you know its safety record isn’t great?’
Louisa ignored his last remark. Of course it was safe to fly. They had strict regulations about such things.
‘Your breathing’s a little steadier now. Good. How are you feeling?’
‘On a scale of one to ten, how scared?’
‘If you were at ten, you wouldn’t have boarded the aircraft and got this far.’
‘True,’ Sebastian replied. ‘I’m going to change “scared” to “anxious”.’
‘Nine and a half.’
‘Well, together we’re going to bring those anxieties down. Why not put your seat belt on?’
‘I’d prefer not.’
‘Okay. How do you feel about moving to the front of the plane?
‘I’m not sure. Can’t I just stay here?’
‘You know you can’t do that. Now, keep holding my hand and follow me. There’s nothing to be frightened of.’
‘Is the front nearer to the emergency exits?’ he asked.
‘I suppose so.’
Together, they inched their way down the aisle, past the rows of seats, and sat down opposite an exit door at the front of the aircraft. Louisa looked into Sebastian’s eyes. ‘Now, say after me: “I can do the taxiing. I can do the take-off”.’
A look of panic came into his eyes. ‘I can’t,’ he said. ‘I really can’t.’
‘Yes, you can. There’s no one else to hear us. Repeat after me: “I can do the taxiing. I can do the take-off.”’
‘I can do the taxiing. I can do the take-off,’ he whispered.
‘Good. That wasn’t hard, was it? Now, louder … you’re doing really well.’
‘I do feel a lot better. Thanks,’ said Sebastian.
‘Excellent. I’m going to start boarding the passengers. If you’d like to take your own seat, I’ll come and see you again just before the engines start — to make sure you’re okay.’
Thirty-five minutes later …
‘Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Welcome aboard this holiday flight to Tenerife. We will be cruising at a height of 35,000 feet. Please make sure your seats are in the upright position, your seat belts securely fastened, and you observe the no-smoking signs displayed throughout the cabin. I am your Captain today — Sebastian Wilcox. I wish you all a pleasant flight …’