Flight Risk

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I love flying.

One of my earliest childhood memories is a blurry, bits and pieces recollection of flying in a Cessna piloted by my father.

The memory is dreamlike, but my dad remembers taking me, so I know those fragmented, vague images in my mind's eye of that flight above our South African farm aren't merely a fantastical fabrication of my imagination.

Had my dad not remembered taking me along on at least one of his flights, I would've seriously doubted the authenticity of my own reminiscence. You see, I couldn't have been more than three or four years old at the time. Everyone in my family, my dad included, is astounded that I'm able to remember that far back in time, because these days I often have trouble remembering my own name!

I'm definitely not confusing that childhood journey with a later plane ride, because I didn't fly again until the December holiday of my sixteenth year, when I caught my first domestic commercial flight from Johannesburg to Durban, a beach front city on the east coast of South Africa. By that time, my dad's days as a pilot had already been cut short some years earlier when he was robbed of his near perfect eyesight during a most unpleasant encounter with a spitting cobra.

But before the snake venom blurred and altered his vision, my dad had already done some damage of his own: I will always believe that it was during that first flight with my father that a spell was cast, causing a restless, yearning beast somewhere within the deepest core of his youngest daughter's being to stir and come to life.

That beast had a ferocious appetite, a hunger that could only temporarily be quelled when I expanded my horizons by exploring the pages of books. But as soon as I had finished one journey of armchair travelling, the beast reared its head and roared, and I was filled with an indescribable longing to go in person to those places I had visited in my imagination, via the written word. It was only much later that I was able to identify the beast by its proper name: Wanderlust.

In the long, flightless years that followed after our household's only resident pilot was grounded by the snake, my monstrous wanderlust and I had to rely on the good old-fashioned wheel to satiate our hunger.

Our farm was remote and we had no choice but to drive anywhere else, so travel opportunities abounded. There were trips to our small town to run errands (trips into town on the school bus didn't count as travel. Those in the afternoon on the way home from school DID count, though, simply because it was more exciting going home than going to school), but my favourite expeditions by far were the once/twice monthly journeys into the big city to do serious, bulk shopping. Since the big city was a seemingly endless two-and-a-bit hour drive from our farm, we’d often bunk overnight with city-dwelling family or friends.

But the biggest car journey adventures by far were the rare trips to the beach. We’d leave our farm before sunrise and, provided that we were driving straight through without any planned sleepover stop, we’d only arrive at our destination late at night. My sisters, who had often slept for the majority of the long drive, would wake up for the last hour of the journey, and with the car windows rolled down, we’d have a contest to see who could smell the salty sea air first. In all the excitement that ensued upon that first detection of ocean air, I don’t think a winner was ever announced. Not that it mattered. After all, the reward was the shared experience of finally being at the beach.

I always enjoyed everything about the car journeys. Maybe it was the novelty of eating at a roadside picnic table, but even the packed sandwiches tasted differently on the road. I even loved the coffee from the thermos which we drank from small but sturdy plastic cups.

But no matter how much enjoyment and satisfaction were derived from the car trips, I always remembered my first flight. And although that memory was undoubtedly vague, it was enough to make me long to fly again.

Sometimes on our farm, the soft rumble of the huge commercial airliners could be heard as they soared high above the clouds en route to exotic destinations. It only fueled my desire to be up there among those fortunate travellers.

When my dream finally came true at age sixteen, my love for flight took off all over again. No matter how much I’ve flown since, I still get butterflies whenever I board a plane. And it has nothing to do with nerves.

It’s probably strange that I’m so fond of flying, because I’m terrified of heights. In fact, my acrophobia is SO severe, I can’t even climb a tree or go up or down an escalator without having at least one hand free to cling to the handrail. But give me the window seat on the plane any day.

On my most recent trip, I was lucky enough to get the window seat. Legroom too, and it wasn’t even First Class! It was the Emergency Exit. Good thing the plane didn’t go down. Not because it would’ve been unpleasant, to say the least - although a bit of that too - but because otherwise I would’ve been in charge of opening the hatch, and I’m really bad with keys and latches and everything else required to successfully open a door, thanks to my lack of basic motor skills.

Good thing I had all that legroom, because this flight transported me further away than I had been in a long time.

6 Comments

deeleea said:

More More More More


Please?

kim said:

you're back!! and i'm tired of flying all the way over there just say goddbye again after a couple weeks. i hate the departure halls of o'hare and i hate having no legroom. luckily on my last flight [last thursday] i got to have a row to myself = loads of legroom which made it a little better.

but i love that childhoof memory of yours. for some reason i don't remember much of my early childhood but i'm pretty sure noone took me on a plane either.. maybe a boat??

autumn said:

i love traveling too... its fabulous thing.

Annika said:

There is nothing about me in this post!

Cherryflava said:

Great story Red....I can also imagine being in that car on the way to Durbs.
Whenever I leave Cape Town and come back, it's the smell of the sea which hits me first.

It's real confirmation that I'm back home.

It really would be rude of you not to put these stories into a book. There are not many writers that can hold my attention to written script like you do.

Red Dahling,
I knew there was a reason,why we are friends. we share the same afliction...Wanderlust. I too love the thought of getting on an airplane. And traveling to parts unknown. I go online frequently to check airfare prices ,just in case.

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
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comments
  • bookstorediva : Red Dahling, I knew there was a reason,why we are friends. we share the same afliction...Wanderlust.... [go]
  • Cherryflava : Great story Red....I can also imagine being in that car on the way to Durbs. Whenever I leave Cape ... [go]
  • Annika : There is nothing about me in this post!... [go]
  • autumn : i love traveling too... its fabulous thing.... [go]
  • kim : you're back!! and i'm tired of flying all the way over there just say goddbye again after a couple w... [go]
  • deeleea : More More More More Please?... [go]
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