Thursday, February 18, 2010

Airport Syndrom

I am having what my hubby and I refer to as an “Airport Day”.

Flying is a common fear, many people are nervous before getting on the plane, hold on tight during take off and turbulence, worry about a crash during the landing. My fear is not of the flight or plane itself, but the airport.

I hate airports. As soon as I start seeing signs for long term parking, my heart beat quickens, I begin to sweat. By the time I reach the terminal, I’ve forgotten which airline I will be traveling with, I panic because I don’t know where to park. More than once I’ve attempted to check in at the wrong airline. Sometimes I just freeze, like a deer in the head lights, I’m so clearly confused that most times, someone will offer to help. Hubby jokes, or perhaps he’s serious, that for the times I have to fly alone, he will make me a large, bright sign to hang around my neck, attached will be a $20.00 bill. The sign will read:

“Please help me, I am on flight __, I need to be at gate __ at blank o’clock. This $20.00 is for any kind person who will take my hand, help me check in and get me and my baggage on my flight in time. Thank you.”

Back when we were dating, before my hubby knew about my airport syndrome, I had to make a flight by myself to go see him in New York. Even on a simple trip I go into airport mode, and unfortunately, this was not a simple trip. My first flight was delayed due to snow. It was here I had my first breakdown of the day. I called my hubby-then-boyfriend, who had finals that day, he told me I must go to the desk, and firmly, not taking no for an answer, tell them I would be getting on a plane. Easy as that, just tell them I needed to get on a plane. What he didn’t know was that at that moment I was in airport mode, I probably couldn’t have recited my own address or phone number upon request (Besides the fact that I rarely assert myself anyway). Thankfully, without having to persuade anyone, they finally decided to put me on the plane and let me start my journey.

By the time I arrived at the airport where my layover was, I was informed that my next flight, the one that would take me to NY, was cancelled, also due to snow. This time, I could not call my hubby-then-boyfriend for support because he was in the middle of a final. So I called his best friend. I had never met his friend, but I was given his number in case there was an emergency. I saw this as an emergency.

“Hi… Justin?”
“Um… You don’t know me but I’m…. and um, well he gave me your number in case anything happened. They delayed my flight, or cancelled it, I’m not even sure.”

He seemed confused, after a long pause he finally asked what I wanted him to do about it. I told him I didn’t know, I just wanted to call. We hung up.

A few minutes later I called again.

“Hi again, um, it’s me, and I just thought I’d call again, I’m not sure if I told you clearly, but they either cancelled or delayed my flight. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, so I’m wondering what I should do, like, how should I get there…?”

These guys think a lot alike because he, like my hubby-then-boyfriend, preceded to tell me to go to the desk, demand they put me on a plane, and just don’t take no for an answer. He also didn’t know about my airport syndrome.

When we hung up, I timidly tiptoed up to the desk, feeling about 6 inches tall, I politely requested to be put on another flight. The woman told me there were no other flights going to NY. It was snowing. My flight wasn’t the only one affected, and I wasn’t going anywhere.

I called Justin again. Justin is a very nice guy, and didn’t get upset at me for continuing to call, but there was simply nothing he could do. I just had to do whatever it took to get on a plane.

Eventually, I DID get on a plane. I’m not sure how, I don’t remember. In airport mode, everything is a blur; I just know I made it to LaGuardia.

We’ve flown together since then, and my hubby now knows and understands my airport syndrome. Since obtaining a travel companion who is still able to function in the airport, we can laugh about it, but being able to laugh at it hasn’t made it go away. I still cry at least once every time I fly, and without my hubby there to guide me along, I still get too stressed to remember the order in which I the process goes (Check in, check bags, security, find gate, find seat.). I’m still to overwhelmed to keep up with my boarding pass AND my bag, more than once I’ve realized one or the other is missing. I still seem to forget my numbers, nearly missing a flight because I’m waiting at gate A34 instead of A16, awkwardly being asked to move when I sit in seat 10A instead of 4B.

Maybe he should make me that sign.

I’ve finally come to the realization that I just don’t handle sensory overloads, large crowds, unfamiliar places and lots of directions well. Really, I can’t successfully handle much beyond my structure and routine. And knowing is all the power (Wink wink, babe).

Sadly, airport syndrome isn’t limited to the airport; it can happen anytime I feel overwhelmed. It’s one of the things I like least about myself, my inability to cope, especially with little stuff. It’s never fun to recognize the things you don’t like about yourself, but, it’s the first step to becoming a better person.

I may be having an airport day, but I’m trying to cope. I haven’t yet called my hubby (or any of his friends!) to help. I’m sure Justin appreciates it.

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