Tap Me Up, Scotty

Star Trek, future, Scotty

Paramount/Everett/Rex Features

I’m not an easy flyer, and I know many of you aren’t either.

So imagine this.

I’m on an airplane leaving the city of love to return to the city of champions, and incidentally, the city where 9/11 began.http://vimeo.com/40340913

I keep my head buried in my book, burying as well memories and misgivings, expectations and excitement on my upcoming re-location. But the fellow sitting next to me (I’m in the aisle, he’s in the window seat, with no one in between), in his early 40s, well-dressed with the requisite 2-day-old beard and unscuffed suede loafers, continually looks at his watch. Boston, city of champions

Over and over again. Continue reading

Up Up and Away


Off I go again on another flight , on another airplane, again dreading the entire experience.

I try, I really do try, to convince myself each time how fortunate I am to be able to travel from one coast to the other several times a year. I berate myself  – (you’re so spoiled, unappreciative, ungrateful) – as I regretfully hand over my boarding pass after waiting until the last possible moment to board. Continue reading

Are Your Ears Ringing?

flying, ears poppingA week before we’re to leave for our winter vacation this month, the ENT peers into my ear canal and says, “You can’t fly with this ear!”

“Okay, I’ll take my other ear,” I crack.

The doctor doesn’t crack even a glimmer of a smile. “Your eardrum will rupture. You can’t fly.”

“I am NOT missing my vacation, or my flight,” I respond, rising from my reclined position in the doctor’s chair.

“I suppose I could rupture it for you,” she says calmly.ear anatomy, ENT

I sit back in the chair, beginning to sweat. I’ve had ear “troubles” since I was a kid. My mom tells me that when I was a toddler, the doctors wrapped me up like a mummy to pierce my eardrum. I don’t remember this incredible horrible form of childhood torture, but have wondered if those repressed memories are the reason that I suffer from claustrophobia.

And a fear of ear doctors.

ears, flying, ear popping

I like my ears
just fine.

Is there a phobia for that? Upon looking it up, I found that (1) there is an ENT doctor whose name is Dr. Fear. I promise, you won’t catch me dead or alive in his chair, and (2) there’s a fear of ears, called  Kaciraffphobia. But I like my ears fine. No, I just have ENTphobia.

“I can’t let you near me,” I whisper to the doctor now in what I had hoped would be a threatening growl.

“Let’s try steroids first,” she suggests. “We have six days before your flight. If prednisone doesn’t reduce your inflammation and allow you to pop your ears, come back the day before your flight. We’ll make a small incision in the eardrum to drain the fluid.”



Back in six days?

Notre Dame bells, ringingI back out of the room, prescription in hand, ears chiming like the Notre Dame bells, knowing that this ENT specialist won’t see the front of me, or my ears, again for a long, long time.

Sorry, doc. Are your ears ringing now, too?

Adventures in Babysitting

babysitting, grandmother, granddaughter, flyingTraveling with a 5-year-old is not for the faint-at-heart.

My Boston granddaughter visits my man and me for a wonderful wacky week, but now it’s time for me to fly her back to the “right” coast.

Because of a planned 6:30 a.m. shuttle for a 9 a.m. flight, I urge my rosebud to bed early the night before and warn her that “I’ll wake you up tomorrow so we can make our flight on time!”

Every other morning, the sleepy princess slumbers past 8:30, and her devious grandmother (yes, that’s me), anxious for the day’s fun to begin, releases the button to her air mattress, deflating the bed and waking the befuddled girl.

So on flight day, I wake up at 5 a.m., figuring I have 75 minutes to shower, dress, and pack before the little one is woken.

But at 5:15, I hear a noise in the child’s room and find her dressed (including headband, shoes, and bracelet), ready to “help” her Madre.

Have you ever packed with a 5-year-old? Each item is lovingly petted, then thrown into the suitcase with wild abandon. The child practices bouncing and jumping on the said suitcase so that it closes properly.

However, her red carry-on case is cajoled to close too aggressively, and one of the side locks suddenly appears in the girl’s hand. Her wide blue eyes express the perfect sentiment:flying with child, granddaughter, suitcase, grandmother


We swirl to the airport and stand in line at security, me handling my suitcase, her suitcase, my carry on and her carry on,  while simultaneously holding granddaughter’s hand.

The line is long, the wait interminable for a wide-awake little girl. “Mommy always lets me sit on my carry on,” she explains patiently.

Well, Mommy wasn’t missing a lock, I mumble to myself, but for the sake of happiness, I let my sweetuns sit (softly! I admonish) on her hard red case.

But the damn lock is missing, and with 10 people ahead of us, and 98 behind, the red case explodes open.

child's medical kit, security lines, airport, grandmotheringOut pops 6 My Little Ponies; 1 toothbrush; 4 headbands; 1 long-legged, pink-clad doll; 3 Fancy Nancy books; and 1 kid’s medical kit that includes a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, 1 thermometer, and 1 reflex hammer.

The security guard barks, “Keep it moving!” as I frantically throw the items, now spread out on the airport floor like ants on a picnic table, into the red case.

“Hurry, Madre,” my granddaughter exclaims, probably hearing the exasperated sighs behind us.

Miraculously, I jam it all in and snap the case (sort of) shut, leaving out not even one little pony.

We make it to our airplane seats unimpeded, although I admit my grateful sigh is loud enough to induce some chuckles in the rows in front and behind us. I pray that the little one is as tired as I am after our early morning trials, but she proceeds to talk, and talk, and talk the entire 5 ½-hour-trip! Not that her conversation isn’t fascinating, but halfway through I suggest it’s time for us to take a nap.

I could have suggested we take a flying leap out of the airplane at 3,000 feet in the air.

“Madre! Did you forget I don’t nap anymore???!”

Two hours later I suggest we close our eyes, just to give them a rest.

“I’m not tired, Madre, but you can close your eyes.” She proceeds to examine me with her medical kit, stethoscope on my chest and thermometer on my lips, to see if there is a medical reason for my fatigue.airplane, pilots, flying with child, female pilots

And then, she asks to go to the bathroom, noting that the “pilots” seem to walk to the rear of the plane often (she doesn’t understand the difference between air flight attendants and pilots, and I’m so impressed that she thinks it’s normal to have three female pilots for one plane, I don’t try to explain).

But when we make it to the back, my granddaughter is shocked and dismayed at the “pilots” sitting in their seats, facing the wrong way.

“HOW CAN THEY STEER FROM HERE???” she screams in concern.

Philosophically, I think sometimes that’s exactly how it feels in life – we steer from the wrong end of the plane.

But I ditch my ruminations, buy her a ginger ale and a box of raisins, and we read “The Night Before Kindergarten” until the plane gently lands.

Facing the right way.

granddaughter, flying, airplane, grandmothering, traveling, adventures in babysitting

Fear of (Not) Flying

flying, fear, claustrophobiaI’m not a flyer.

As passengers stand in line to board the plane (after they’ve all scurried like scared squirrels to have tickets checked, hurrying through the tunnel just to stand and wait), I stay behind.

I do not want to enter that metal tube until absolutely necessary.

I’m not afraid of the actual flying part. I understand the physics of how the plane’s engine boosts us up into the sky, the dynamics of keeping us up there, the mechanism of getting us, and the plane, down in one piece.

That’s the easy part. The difficulty, for me, is being squished in that flying tube with 200 other people, with nowhere to go. What if I decide, mid-flight, that I really don’t want to be up there? That in fact, I want to touch earth, now, and walk a mile or so to stretch my legs, or maybe find a burger joint and eat real food, or, even more possibly, go pee someplace more private than a 3 inch by 3 inch box with a suspiciously sticky floor and tiny sink full of used water and strands of hair.

What do I do then?

I hyperventilate. Sweat pours off my forehead and down my back. My skin gets itchy, my lungs get smaller, and my heart starts racing faster than the jet. My mouth opens so I can scream, “let me out!” but my brain takes over and demands, “shut up, Pam.”

Most times, my brain wins over. I grab my paperback and delve into the story, urging my thoughts to go there, into the characters’ setting, into their dilemmas and fears, so I can ignore mine.

But sometimes, my desire for freedom (read: my claustrophobia), wins.

Like the time my man and I meander off one large plane knowing we have a 3-hour wait for the next smaller one to reach our vacation destination, but are told we can rush to the gate and make an earlier flight instead. We’re elated – we can get to the beach, and a drink, even sooner!

But we’re the last ones on the plane, and the flight attendant points us to our seats – in the last row. Gamely, I follow my guy down the aisle, talking to myself all the way “you’ll be fine, just 30 minutes, suck it up.”

Until we sit down, the flight attendant starts her safety spiel, and I pop up like a broken jack-in-the-box (in this case, Pam-in-a-box) and literally run back up the aisle to freedom. I dimly hear my dear seatmate shout, “where are you going?” and the attendant yell, “but the door’s already closed.” I don’t care. I Am Getting Out of There.

As I pass Row 5, a passenger on the aisle grabs my arm softly and whispers, “it’s okay,” treating me like a wild horse, and she the horse whisperer. “I’ll switch,” she continues, urging me to take her seat while she trudges down down down the narrow aisle to sit next to my bemused mate.

Thus, not only do I make it to our vacation island, still married (to an understanding man), but my love for all humanity has tripled.

Nonetheless, every time my guy and I travel together, he holds my hand a bit too firmly as we enter the plane and sit in our (as-close-to-the-front-as-possible) seats. But there’s no need for him to hold tight.

I realize that my biggest fear now is not flying, and thus missing out on visiting enchanting people, like grandchildren, and exotic places, like New Jersey.

Currently my mantra as I enter a plane is:

               “it’s the destination, not the journey!” (Apologies to Siddhartha)

plane, crowds, claustrophobia