Philippines – Behind the Scenes
The clouds are black with locust-like raindrops. Lightning strikes. There is a rumble in the distance.
I’m seated two rows back from the cockpit, in a tiny 19-seater, on my way from one stunning Filipino island to another. The clouds look ominous, the wind is picking up. In this relatively flimsy plane, this type of weather doesn’t bode well.
First comes the rain. As we pass through a now raging storm, water crashes through the pilots window and drips onto the console. The pilot tries in vain to keep the water out, as diagonal droplets pelt him in the face. The plane dips, wobbles and jerks. At 30,000 feet, this is one hell of a roller coaster.
If it was a Boeing 747 I’m sure this weather would be a mere blip on the flight, but, seated in this piece of crap airplane with a direct view into the cockpit, I feel every bump. I’m filled with fear.
Palms sweaty, with a death grip on the seat in front of me, I cinch my seat belt tighter, close my eyes and focus on my breathing.
I’ve turned into what some might call a ‘nervous flyer.’ I familiarize myself with the exits as soon as I get on the plane, I always wear my seat belt (even if the seatbelt sign is off) and I regularly review the emergency safety manual.
While filming Word Travels, our crew will sometimes take three or four flights a week. That’s a lot of flying…opening myself up to an increased risk.
In my lifetime, I’ve taken hundreds of flights and, over the next few months of filming the show, I’ve planned for at least 20 more. With those odds, I can’t help but think the principles of probability aren’t playing for my team. With all the flying I do, am I not owed a little trouble?
A plane crash seems like a fitting end to this travel writer’s career. It may sound morbid but this is what occurs to me at every take-off, landing, bump, thump or sign of turbulence.
Statistically, flying is the safest form of transport. And even if my plane did crash, my chances of surviving are pretty good. In 2006, BBC reported that “in the US alone, between 1983 and 2000, there were 568 plane crashes. Out of the collective 53,487 people onboard, 51,207 survived.”
Bouncing around like a child on a shoddy carnival ride, water gushing into the cockpit, I clench my teeth, as if tightening my jaw will somehow stop the storm. In my state of discomfort, statistics aren’t helping. Robin makes fun of me.
Another drop. I let out a little squeal. Robin is in hysterics. Clearly, he finds my fear highly amusing.
The plane is shaking like it has Parkinson’s disease. I close my eyes, clutch the seat in front of me and shoot Robin an evil glare. So this is how it all goes down, I ask myself.
The concept of death is a funny thing. We live blissfully unaware of when or how this mega event will occur. Trying to convince ourselves that somehow, it won’t happen to us.
Harrowing flights like this remind me that we all gotta go sometime. My daily worries melt away, my desires for material things become irrelevant. I have clarity about life important things. Play, learn, experience, love.
Just as I start to philosophize and accept the notion of my own mortality, the dark clouds recede, the skies brighten and the killer rain stops. Relieved, I smile at Robin, who’s still giggling under his breathe at the ‘brave’ Julia scared out of her mind.
The plane lands and the passengers breathe a sigh of relief. Just another day, just another flight for us frequent fliers.
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