Sometimes, you never know how really good you have it until you are awakened to someone else’s problems that are much, much worse than yours. click here to ready more about this topic.
Traveling on business you get to come in contact with a wide range of people that you would not normally come into contact with. In this case, there was a couple sitting next to me in the gate waiting area at O’Hare. They were traveling to see their grandparents and were bringing along their infant. As they explained, this was the first time that they had gone out of state, let alone left the house since their infant was born last October. You see, they explained, their child was born with a great many birth defects and it was only now that the infant was not hooked up to a machine of one kind or another. What a beautiful baby to have so many problems lay ahead of him. It could really break your heart. The couple, however, were cool and so very competent that you had to marvel at their excitement to make such a trip albeit with more than the usual difficulties.
And so my fear of flying was quickly put into perspective. Here was a child that had beaten all the odds and survived some very serious pre-birth and after birth medical conditions and this couple put all that aside to bring this child to his great grandparents who could no longer travel themselves. More than a dozen operations were done on this tiny baby who survived each one only to face another hurdle and I am whining about my fear (a very real fear) of flying. As they explained their journey to me, this couple really made me realize that my burdens are really not too much to bear, and theirs…well, one could only admire their grit and determination that their baby should live as normal a life as medical science can now make possible. I could just tell that this was to be a very happy homecoming for the three of them and that because of their positive and can-do attitude, their baby will be in the best of hands.
So we all know that I hate flying but sometimes you just have to do it for business. Last week, I had occasion to sit next to someone that really knew about internet marketing. (I told this person I would give them a link on my blog.) The topic came up because I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation this person was having with a client who was just so enthusiastic, that I could hear everything the person on the line was saying.
Apparently, the person next to me on the flight was working on this clients’ site and was getting them phone calls that they hadn’t been able to get from their online marketing efforts in the past. Why is this important? For one reason, you just never know who will be sitting next to you on a plane that might have an idea or a service that you can you. In my business, I need help with online marketing. Right next to me, was someone who apparently knew what they were doing. Most times, one would be suspect of this kind of “set up”. I mean, to get a phone call before the plane takes off that is this effusive would set my “bs” antennae to high alert. But this person didn’t know who they would be sitting next to. It could have been a kid. (Children in first class. Now there is a topic for another post.)
So we struck up a conversation and I found out more about how the internet works in the 90 minute flight than all the consultants our company has paid for in the past 3 years could ever tell us. I now understand how all the facets of ecommerce fit together in ways that I could never have dreamed. There is something about being stuck on a plane for a while that engenders full attention and concentration. If you are learning something, you just don’t want to stop. Further, and good for me, I wasn’t anxious about the flight at all because this conversation was so distracting. I’m sure that’s why airlines put in-flight movies on in the first place – to distract and entertain. But this was even better. It moved my business forward in more ways than just miles earned.
So I flew on Southwest Airlines over the weekend for the first time for a friend’s wedding. (It was not possible to drive that far and get back in time for work Monday morning.) When the flight attendant started reciting the safety features lecture I was surprised because it was actually funny. Who knew that that you could actually make light of something so serious. I first thought that the purpose of the humor was to get people to actually pay attention to the content of the message instead of ignoring it and reading or sleeping or whatever. The person next to me told me that this happens quite a lot on Southwest, they really do want their employees to wing it – so to speak. Just so the information is in there, they don’t really care how it is delivered. Which got me to thinking why would they let them do it, doesn’t it hurt the brand?
One side benefit of all the humor is that, for people like me that hate flying, it is a nice distraction from the anxiety that builds up to take off. I mean, all the seriousness of the safety features and the oxygen masks, seat belts, how to open a window and find the exits if the plane fills with smoke, those are pretty sobering thoughts. And not all that comforting. So interjecting some humor in the whole thing not only serves to get people to listen (how many times some people have heard the lecture must be mind-boggling), but also gets them to relax a bit before takeoff. Now if they could only extend their humor to turbulence, that would be a real help for me because that is the very worst of the whole flight. And lately, I don’t know of too many people that have commented on how smooth their flight was.
This is the topic of another conversation, but Southwest Airlines must be pretty confident in their employees to let them go “off scrip” and entertain. Might not be a bad place to work…in a desk job!
OK, I am admitting to the world that I am afraid of flying. That doesn’t mean that I don’t fly, I just hate it with a passion. It is a control thing, and also partly because I have an unusually sensitive stomach so any unexpected movement causes all kinds of dissatisfaction in my digestive system. Which affects my head. Which affects my heart rate. And so on.
Part of the discord is that I cannot see where I am going. I am a front seat person – cars, carriages, any conveyance requires me to be in the front seat so that my eyes can inform my stomach what is coming up. If it knows it is coming, then it is just fine. If it gets bumpy and is completely in the dark, then bad news. So you can imagine how hard it is to keep my stomach under control when I am stuck in coach with no hope of ever seeing out the front window…oh and yes, the side windows aren’t good enough. Besides, you can’t see turbulence so there is another problem right there.
The control thing is a bigger factor. Not only am I stuck in the back with no view, I have no control. From the time the plane leaves the ground until it lands, I have no control. And that is at it should be. But the lack of control contributes to my fears and apprehensions. It is a couple hours of being in the hands of someone else and in a transportation vehicle that you can’t leave because it doesn’t stop and it is about 30,000 feet in the air.
This kind of anxiety is just why some people choose to fly with a private jet manager. That way, at least you have some control of when and where you are going and how you get there. Commercial aviation, not so much.
I sat next to a dead-heading pilot (what a terrible name) on one flight and recognizing my anxiety, he filled me in on all the strange sounds that one hears while flying to try and allay some of my fears. This is the wheels going up, this is the ventilating system and so on. For two hours. I must admit, it did help me a bit to know that that weird whirring sound wasn’t a misfiring engine.
What I still would like to know is why they can’t fly over or around turbulence. Heck, anyone can see that there are huge clouds ahead with tops at 45,000 feet. Just go around it. Or over it. Please just not through it!
My name is Mike and this is my blog. I decided to confront my fears head on and begin to blog about them. Perhaps by writing about them, I might have a chance to overcome them and maybe, just maybe, not be so afraid of them anymore. Although I am an adult, I sometimes think that my fears are irrational when compared with my friends’ and family’s fears. Sometimes, we just can’t get ahead of things that truly scare us and since I have tried everything else, I hope that this blog will serve to help me, and help you, confront the scariest.