Friday, January 20, 2012

Back on the Horse

There have been runaway brides - well, you could call me a runaway passenger.

The majority of my life I loved flying, it was back in the day when my mom made my sister and I dress up for a flight, often in coordinating outfits.  It was the thrill of going somewhere new and exciting, the little utensils on the plane, the flight attendants with their warm smile and bright lipstick and of course the captain giving out the little wings that you could stick on your shirt.  I loved looking at the world below, get smaller and smaller.

In my mid twenties, most of my close friends had struck out for destination, anywhere but Milwaukee.  And once again, my love for flying was taking to a whole new level.  This time I was flying solo! It was the independence of getting your driver's license with a much larger playing field.  I felt so grown up, walking into an airport by myself, getting some trashy magazines, and the great invention of the Disc-man brought me my own play list.  I felt so cosmopolitan - visiting friends in new cities, living this new phase of post college life.  It was also at this time that my best friends one by one were getting engaged.  And as we were all doing pretty well for ourselves, with no one to support, we started the tradition of meeting in a city for a girl's bachelorette weekend.  These trips to this day bring some of my fondest memories of my group of friends.  We always went where someone at the time was living, and we had a specific itinerary - casual dinner, special dinner where we would tell the bride to be how special they are to us, often a mix tape of songs that remind us of them - putting it in words it sounds like a lifetime movie.  So off I jonted - L.A, Vail, Atlanta, Naples (FL) and my family's Lake House.

Then there was my France phase, I have been to Europe four times.  Once in high school with my parents to London, and the other three times all to France.  The first trip with my mom and grandma, to get to Lourdes!  The second my friend since kindergarten Kim and I did the "backpacking" trip, minus the backpacks.  And the third when I spent six weeks living in Nice, and that trip was my first brush with a not so pleasant flight experience.  At the time I was taking my pre-requiste science classes to apply to medical school.  I already had my bachelor's degree, so I was a part time student, and right before winter break after a nasty break-up I walked into the travel abroad room and asked if there was anywhere to go over the holiday.  She hooked my up with Hofstra University's program - the were going to the South of France - perfect.  I went to New York, stayed with my cousin and two days later joined a group of students that all new each other as we headed off to Nice.

 I was older than all of these students, and this adorable girl Heather became my "little" sister for the trip.  We were headed home and boarded a small charter flight from Nice to Paris.  The first sign should have been that the flight attendants were wearing blue jeans and red visors - as we piled into the flight, Heather and I sat next to each other.  It was only a 45 minute ride to get to Paris, it was a gorgeous day.  Flying so much I had the dings and slow descent thing down pat in my head.  And as we started our decent we kept hearing this very load rrrrhhhhhhhnnnnn noise, and then chug chug chug, it was the sound of trying to turn a car over and it gets to the end and struggles and struggles, then dies.  Heather looked at me with her huge brown eyes, filled with fear, I kept saying, don't worry its a small plane, and we are right by the wing so we hear everything.  But in my head I knew better, and then our slow decent, began a series of circling.  The professor leading the trip was talking to the flight attendant about our short layover, and she assured him nothing was wrong, and we just needed to circle d/t too many planes needing to land.  Then that noise over and over and over again, now Heather's eyes were dripping the slow tears, her one hand covering her ears mumbling make it stop make that noise stop and my right hand was devoid of blood.  I knew it was the landing gear, it wasn't going down.  We began our descent, I saw the tree line - I counted slowly in my head down from three.  Three , breathe, two, breathe, one - we should be on the ground and suddenly, my head slammed back into seat as the force of our abrupt ascent thrust you backwards.  Now I was scared, but I had my "little" sister next to me who had already lost her mom, and I had no choice but to be calm.   No word from the captain, not a word from any passengers, just eyes that showed confusion and fear.  We landed on the second attempt, hard, but landed safely.  Then spent the next 8 hours in the airport and the second flight on the massive Air France was hit with so much turbulence, we were not allowed to leave our seats.  And despite these back to back stress filled flights, I still loved to fly.

heading to be continued.

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