If you were at the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport recently, you may have seen me sitting at the lounge, absently scrolling through my phone. But this picture can be very misleading because what I was really doing was wondering if my early morning flight – the aircraft itself – was serviced the night before? Or if it was carelessly left for the morning of? And if the pilot had a good night sleep, or if he had been drinking, or if his wife had left him, or if he was happy?! “Oh God, please let him be happy?!!”
True story. A few months earlier, I read an article on the Atlantic in which a journalist’s findings revealed that the deceased pilot who had crashed a certain Malaysian airplane had been dealing with drinking problems and a wife who had left him. One divorce and hundreds end up dead. Oyibo people and their range of troubles. #Sigh
So sitting in the airport lounge the morning I am meant to return back to base, I say a quick prayer for my faceless pilot, that God would bestow a sudden and compelling happiness upon him, a happiness that was so settling and sure that the airplane itself would ride on its wings and take the entire cabin safely to our destination.
A long time ago, my mother, my then traveling partner said to me: If anything happens to this plane now everyone will perish. It is the kind of thought you don’t expect to hear when you are suspended thousands of feet above sea level. And it is also the kind of thought that leaves you breathless as you chase your imagination. How do airplanes in transit come apart? Do they combust in flames or swoop down from the clouds like a super hero until they hit the ground? And by the way, who invented the parachute and did anyone ever give them the feedback of how senseless and impractical it is to gather yourself, wear a back pack and press a button when you are breathless and falling?
Over the years, my mother and I have mastered the language of our fear of flying, our fear of falling from the sky, so we picked up small rituals of survival – intense prayers days before a trip, asking God to hold the arm and the leg of the plane, to fire and thunder into oblivion any spirit of turbulence, any force that would make the plane go right when it is supposed to go left. We can save ourselves from village people, from poverty and unemployment and bad relationship. But a plane that falls from the sky, who can escape?
Lately, my life has been filled with trips of the flying kind, with one long distance looming in a matter of hours. So this is the kind of thing I do – go on YouTube, plunge into a stack of videos on how airplanes crash, or how to survive and why the safest route to stay alive is to remain in your house. Except that a plane, you know, could actually crash into your house! The whole thing is pointless and stressful, so I have packed up my bags and anxieties, ready to move, ready to trust the hand of science and of course, the blood of Jesus. Signs cross over chest
Point is, we do what we need to do anyway, regardless of our fears. Suspended in the endless stretch of the skies, I remind myself that life is one big risk, and the only way out of fear is to go through it!
This article is dedicated to everyone who suffers from Aviophobia.
P.SS I didn’t have any of my travel anxieties whenever I flew in a private airplane on work related trips. So maybe the cure of phobias of this nature is becoming very rich 🙂