Thanksgiving was last week. This leads people to be polite and ask the dreaded question, “How was your Thanksgiving break?” I always answer “Fantastic! Best I ever had!”

That would be the truth ? assuming “Fantastic! Best I ever had!” meant “Holy crap! I almost wet myself several times!”

Granted, my Thanksgiving would have been super if I did not have to fly in a plane. I have a fear of flying. In fact, with me it goes way beyond fear. I would say I am in the phobia range. My last few flights have ended with the pilot saying these phrases: 1) Well, we might not have gotten there on time, but at least we got you there. 2) I hope I never have to do that again. 3) Everyone just get off the plane. Now.

My flights over Thanksgiving break were no different. Since I live in Colorado, I get the added bonus of flying on two different planes ? a turbo prop and an Airbus ? both of which are upstanding pieces of machinery. My favorites are the old turbo props that hold 15 people and creak like the dickens every time the plane turns.

I have never seen so many old people fly at one time. There must have been some sort of senior citizens’ convention in Pittsburgh, because my plane was full of geriatrics. The only reason that bothered me was because I kept thinking, “These people have lived long full lives. They are prepared to die.” I know it sounds weird, but I am just a little neurotic that way.

After the senior flight, I sat next to an eight-year-old boy. I knew I had to act tough, so I put up a big front, but I think he noticed my hands gripping the armrests.

Sometime during the middle of the flight, he switched seats because “the TV was fuzzy” and he could not see the picture. Right, I think I was making him nervous. Once he left I turned into a trembling heap of fear.

The flight back to Rochester did not bode any better. I sat next to a man travelling on business. He was the typical jaded flyer. About an hour into the flight, things started to get bumpy, and I let him know I was not the flying type by hyper-

ventilating. He tried to calm me down by saying he was usually pretty good on flights except that he gets sick when the plane starts jolting up and down.

Right on cue, the plane started bobbing as though it were a boat in twenty foot waves. Instinctively, I latched onto his arm. He was looking a little ill, but I think my clawing hands distracted him from his stomach.

I was sure this was the end. I tried to figure out if I was sitting far enough back to be spared when the plane took a nose dive into Mother Earth. Unfortunately, I remembered something I read somewhere. “When you mix stuff in the Cuisinart, you think it matters which end of the banana went in last.”

Right before I passed out from fear, the pilot came over the speakers and tensely shouted, “Everyone tighten your seat-belts! Flight attendants, sit the hell down.”

That was it. My heart almost beat out of my chest. The businessman and I got into a grappling match for the phone. We must have looked like a couple of two-year-olds.

All this could not have taken any longer than three minutes, but it felt like an eternity. You can imagine our embarrassment when the pilot came over the speaker again and told us we had just hit some unexpected turbulence. The businessman and I lowered our heads and did not talk the rest of the flight.

When the plane landed, I could not wait to get off ? not because I wanted to kiss the ground, but because I wanted to escape the jeers of the other passengers. The wounds inflicted by my neighbor will heal with time, but the emotional wounds from the laughing passengers will last a lifetime.

Haber can be reached at

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