Monday, February 25, 2013

Worst Flight Ever

   I just returned from the NOLA Half-Marathon, and I'm going to write a review on that soon. But first, I have got to tell you about our trip home. As you probably have guessed, we made it home safely, but I wasn't sure things were going to work out that way.
   Our flight was scheduled at 2:30, but was delayed until 3:00. I knew there was bad weather all over the country, but New Orleans was pretty calm. Yes, we were under a tornado watch, but other than one five-minute downpour, the weather didn't seem that bad.
   Once we were seated, the captain made the comment that we should expect some bumps during the flight. Now, while I'm not a frequent flier, I do fly enough to not get all freaked out about a little turbulence. I'm not happy about the bumps, but I'm not one to panic over them. So I made note of the captain's announcement, and then settled into reading Runner's World while we barreled down the runway.
   Takeoff was a little bumpy, as was the first 10 minutes of the flight, but nothing too crazy and certainly not anything worse than what I had experienced in previous flights. But then the bumps got a little more frequent...and a little more drastic. The plane not only would bump up and down, but side to side as well. There was one time when I looked up and we were kind of flying at an angle, like we were banking for a turn - only we weren't turning...
   So this went on for about 5-10 minutes, and I'm thinking, "OK - this is bumpy, but we're fine. This is fine." But then things got bad. I mean saying prayers to God asking for forgiveness bad. The kind of flight where you are literally hanging on to your seat because you HAVE to or else you WILL fall out. At one point, we dropped so violently, that I had that weird feeling of weightlessness you get when you drive over a steep hill too fast or you're on a roller-coaster - only you're not doing either. You're in a metal tube that will explode on impact if something goes wrong. It just seemed impossible that the plane could keep taking jolts like that and still stay airborne! It took everything I had to not freak out. I just focused on my white Puma shoe (the right one) and kept breathing deep to stay calm. In fact, I kept saying that over and over "just breathe, just breathe."
   Two other things helped me to stay (somewhat) calm. One was that right before we hit that giant bump, the pilot came on and said "Hang on to that hot coffee!" I figured that if he could joke about the turbulence, then he must not be stressed about it. He had to have things under control, right? Right?!! The other thing was a bit of wisdom from a member of the military Dudley and I had the privilege to sit next to on a bumpy flight to Texas a few years back. After mentioning something about the turbulence, he looked at us and said "Well, at least we're not being shot at!" Kind of puts things in perspective.
   Fortunately, after about a half-hour, we were above the storms, and had about 10 minutes of "smooth" travel before starting our decent into Nashville. Of course, my nerves were so rattled by that time that relaxing was impossible. I just wanted to get on the ground. I have never wanted to be off a plane so badly in my life - and that includes the time when an emergency exit door came loose mid-flight. Sure - the door was open, but the flight wasn't violently shaking and about to break apart like this one felt it was about to do. (Sidebar about that trip - we made an emergency landing back in Nashville where they fixed the door. The mechanic had a roll of duct tape with him. DUCT TAPE! TO FIX A PLANE DOOR! Whatever he did- it worked.)
   As proof I'm not exaggerating about the flight, I spoke to a friend who was also on board. She said she started to cry and grabbed on to a stranger's leg when we hit the big bump. And my husband was white-knuckling it the entire time. He took NO comfort in the captain's joke about the hot coffee. In fact, I think Dudley's exact words were "I'm thinking I'm about to DIE and he's making JOKES?!" Fortunately, I'm happy to say that I'm currently sitting on my sofa with my wonderful husband and awesome dogs and I'm very thankful to be home. Even with the crazy flight, NOLA was a wonderful experience. Race report to follow soon!