I normally love flying. There’s something exhilarating about the roar of those jet engines as the pilot pulls back on the throttle. There’s a palpable feeling of leaving everything behind.
But today’s flight was different.
I didn’t pay particularly close attention when the captain said we’d be running into 175-mile-per-hour crosswinds. The plane itself would be doing about 500, I reasoned, so a crosswind was no big deal, right?
For the first time in my 40+ years of commercial flying, it seemed a real possibility that the plane might simply fall out of the sky.
We had the usual up-and-down, garden-variety turbulence. It was rough, but that I could deal with.
What I found utterly disconcerting was getting hit sideways. Each sideswipe would make the wings tilt abruptly, throwing everything (and everyone) sideways as the entire plane listed at odd angles. I found myself grabbing the armrests—hard—in an attempt to keep my balance. The violent jerking motion made my stomach lurch; a couple of my fellow travelers emitted weird little strangled screams.
After about 10 minutes, I was worried I might throw up. And after 15 minutes, I was terrified beyond rational thought.
The landing was equally hairy: The wings were tilting wildly from side to side as the ground came up to meet us. A couple of stray possessions went rolling down the aisle. Everyone around me looked a little blanched.
But all of that faded as soon as I saw my parents. Like a sort of childbirth in reverse, I instantly forgot what it had taken to get there and I was aware only of their smiling faces and the happiness of holding them in my arms.
In hindsight, it was totally worth it.
Still … just in case, I’m popping some Dramamine for the trip home.