I’ve always been afraid of flying. I do it, but not without copious amounts of Xanax and wine. I once burned through so many sedatives traveling from New York to Australia that I thought I’d have to check into rehab when we landed. Then there was the time I burst into tears on a particularly turbulent cross-country flight and was comforted by a ten-year-old girl who had the misfortune of being seated next to me.
I’m a television writer by trade, but a few years ago I began writing my Cajun Country Mystery series on the side. I soon discovered the wonderful world of mystery conventions, great places to network with other authors and readers. But it means flying to locations around the country.
Our daughter was a high school freshman when my first book, Plantation Shudders, came out. I’d been warned that parenting gets harder as kids get older, but I refused to believe it. What could be harder than helping a kid navigate middle school? High school, that’s what. High. SCHOOL.
There’s getting a teen up and out the door for a first period or zero period class, God help us. There’s making sure they get their homework done, get decent grades, garner an impressive list of extra-curriculars, sign up for SAT tutoring, sign up for the SATs, get their college apps in on time. Once they get their driver’s license, there are the heart-in-mouth hours when they’re on the road, and in Lalaland where we live, many of those roads are freeways straight out of a Mad Max movie. Then there are the parties they get invited to – will there be drinking, smoking, vaping, juuling, whatevering??? It’s an endless list of potential parental heart attacks. Have I mentioned the teen mood swings?
Back to those mystery conferences and conventions. The first one I attended was Malice Domestic, held in Bethesda, Maryland.
This required an 8 a.m. cross-country flight. I left the house at five a.m. to ensure I’d be at LAX, the world’s worst airport, by six a.m. (Sidebar: arriving two-hours early is considered cutting it close in my family. My parents once showed up to an international flight eight hours early. The airline employees weren’t even there yet.)
I had a revelation on the drive to the airport. I was alone. It was quiet. Plus, five a.m. is that rare window of time in Los Angeles when traffic is relatively light. (Noticed the word “relatively.” By five-thirty, that window is slammed shut.)
I’ve been a loyal American Airlines passenger for years, so I’d booked my flight with them. Immediately after clearing their terminal’s security, I noticed a Homeboy Café.
I picked up a hot tea and one of their terrific sandwiches for the plane ride, found a seat near my departure gate, and then… I relaxed. Yes, relaxed. It was a strange but welcome sensation.
At six-thirty a.m., the time I’d be trying to drag the teen out of bed if I was home, my heart began to race. All I could think was, what if my husband calls to tell me she won’t get up? Or can’t find her keys? Or forgot to do an assignment due that day? I held my breath until an airline employee began the boarding process. Once I got on the plane, I finally heard the words I’d been waiting for: “Please turn off all electronic devices or place them on Airplane Mode.” Yes, captain, my captain. I am on it.
And then there was the flight itself. Oh, those glorious five hours of uninterrupted reading! Even the dreaded turbulence that usually sent me into an emotional tailspin didn’t bother me. I was safe in my cocoon, my 78-ton cone of silence.
This has now become my convention travel routine. A Homeboy Cafe visit, a case of nerves at the wake-up witching hour, then that blessed plane ride and the heady feeling of knowing that for a few hours, whatever is going on at home won’t be my problem. Because I am– oh, that magic word – unreachable.
Currently, cell phone calls aren’t allowed on American Airline flights. I live in fear of that policy changing. For the love of God, let us be unavailable for a few hours in one place on this planet! Or at least thirty-five thousand feet above it.
Our teen starts college in August. I wonder if once she departs, my fear of flying will return. But first, there’s a solo flight in June to a librarian convention – and a delicious Homeboy sandwich waiting for me at the American Airlines terminal.
Readers, have you ever conquered a fear? Coincidentally, I’ll be flying back from NYC on the day this posts – not alone, sigh – but I’ll be checking in!