The Kindness of Strangers
Confession: I am terrified of flying. A lot of people find this surprising, given I fly so often. In the year or so since I left home, I’ve been on twenty-seven flights. And yet…every single time, I’m terrified.
When the plane takes off I shake and cry and I feel like I can’t breathe. At the slightest sign of turbulence, I gasp or shriek so loudly I get looks from other passengers. During landing, I grip onto the chair for dear life, as if this will somehow help. Frankly, it’s embarrassing and exhausting.
Sometimes, when the flight is smooth, I think I’m getting better at flying… And then the plane shakes a little bit, and I’m back to square one. But the thing that has been helping me of late, is the kindness of random strangers.
Just recently, I was on a flight from Podgorica to Ljubljana. It was a small plane. Immediately, this makes me that little bit more nervous. Even before we took off, I was imagining the bumpy ride, because I know you can feel it more in a smaller plane. And so naturally, I was shaking and tearing up when the plane seemed to be getting battered about.
The young guy sitting next to me noticed my distress and asked if I was okay. Of course, this is a difficult question to answer when you’re in a state of panic. I told him I was a very nervous flier and I’d love a distraction from this awful take off. So, he started to tell me about his road trip through the Balkans, his job in advertising and his passion for films. Turns out he’s just made his first film, a story of two girls finding love and getting mixed up in crime while traveling through Portugal. The film is called Pestana…but as yet, I can’t find it online.
We didn’t stop chatting the entire one-hour flight.
To him, this might have been a friendly gesture; talking to a stranger during a flight. But for me, it was a big deal. He got my mind off the plane, distracting me with his fascinating tales.
I’ve started looking into ways to overcome my fear of flying, but for now I think my strategy is to get chatting to the stranger next to me.