At the beginning of the month, I had the opportunity to visit one of my closest friends, and everything about the trip was perfect…almost. The one gray cloud that hovered over an otherwise sunny-and-seventy-five trip was that this particular friend lives about six hundred and fifty miles west of me, and I don’t currently own a vehicle that can travel the states between us.
This left only the most hellish of options: flying.
As with most things that I hate, I could choose to shift my perspective—to think about how, if not for the invention of commercial airlines, who knows when I would ever be able to visit my friends and family who are more than a train or bus ticket away—but where’s the fun in that?
Here’s why planes are actually amazing; as soon as you board, you automatically fill ill. For me, it’s not a stomach pain or an urgency to use the bathroom, but rather it’s as if my body’s been tricked into believing that I’ve had a cold for weeks before my trip, and that my symptoms are just beginning to subside. It’s fatigue, a scratchy throat, and a light cough, all of which I feel particularly terrible about because I know that all of the other healthy people are now terrified of me because they think that I’m the one sicking up all the recycled air (as if it was so pristine when only they had boarded).
Never mind the over-caffeinated flight attendants, the screaming babies, the person in front of me reclining their chair into my lap while the person next to me should have reserved one and a half seats for their particular body width—it’s really the air that gets me. I can close my eyes and try to forget about all of the thousands of other pitfalls of the plane, but when it comes to holding my breath, I only last about forty-five seconds.
As soon as I find my seat, I immediately try to slip into a coma to quiet the hypochondriacal thoughts swimming around in my now surely infected headspace. But alas, about midflight I’m woken by the flight attendant ramming her drinks cart into my slightly protruding knee.
“Would you like something to drink, sir?!” she asks unabashedly. I fight the urge to silently glare and instead order a ginger ale—the same drink I’ve ordered on a plane since I was ten years old, now more appropriate than ever as a cold remedy.
After what seems like weeks of being bedridden (even though it’s only, at most, been an hour or two) the plane lands and I’m almost free. I watch as half the passengers take off their seatbelts, then stand as soon as the plane is parked. Even though the boarding door won’t open for another fifteen minutes. And even though there are several rows of people in front of us.
I might be sick and dying, but I try to keep a grain of class.
Finally, it’s my row’s turn to get off of this flying bacteria pod. I sprint through the empty aisle, run past the captain (usually and ashamedly without saying thank you), and leave the plane. Grogginess from my forced nap is the only remaining symptom, and I’m finally able to convince myself that I am, in fact, as healthy as before I boarded.
And for the rest of the trip, I blissfully frolicked in an imaginary world where all plane tickets were one-way.
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.