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My Worst Flight

I settled into my seat on the last leg of my journey back from a summer teaching English

in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I wasn’t too tired as I’d spent a few days in Istanbul slept

for a few hours on my previous flight. I was now 2.5 hours from my soft bed in Austin. A

handsome young man sat in the seat next to me and we began swapping travel stories. The

captain warned us of possible turbulence and we were off.

As the engines roared to life at the end of the runway the woman sitting behind me began

to wail. She pleaded with her auntie, seated beside her, to make the plane stop. Her auntie

assured her that everything would be okay. We picked up speed down the runway, her howl

matching that of the engine’s. As our wheels left the earth the woman screamed, “I have to go to

the bathroom Auntie I have to go! Make them land the plane Auntie!”

With visions of urine rolling around under my seat I surreptitiously picked up my bag and

placed it in my lap. The woman’s aunt spoke soothingly, but to little effect. I felt my anxiety

rise as the young woman grabbed the back of my seat and began to shake it, yelling all the while.

I simply ignored the commotion and continued my conversation. There was little else to be

done.

Once the plane reached cruising altitude everything settled down. The woman behind me

put her headphones in and relaxed. I enjoyed an hour and a half without interruption and

appreciated the company of my seatmate.

Finally, the captain came over the intercom to inform us of our initial decent and reminded us

that we would experience turbulence.

Just as the captain predicted, the plane began to bounce as we descended. It was certainly

not a comfortable decent, but I have also experienced much worse. As the plane began to lurch

the woman behind me resumed her screaming. She continued to claim that she

desperately needed to use the lavatory and although all had ended well the first time, I made sure

to raise my feet to the bar in front of me just in case.

The plane dropped suddenly. The drop was enough to make my stomach lurch, but not

enough to alarm a regular traveler. The woman behind me gripped the collar of my shirt and

yanked backward, pinning me to my seat.

She screamed, “Auntie, this plane is going to crash Auntie!”

Her auntie began prying her fingers from my collar and calm her down while the man

seated next to me tried to assist. I worked my fingers under the front of my collar and pulled

forward so that I could breath. I took deep breaths to and tried to remain calm until they released

me from her grip and I leaned forward to avoid second contact. Her aunt apologized profusely

and the man next to me took my hand as I regained control of my breath. We landed shortly

after, the aunt still apologizing. I told her it was no problem and felt worse for her than for

myself. I actually felt glad that it was me sitting there and not someone with less flying

experience. I knew that this experience was more difficult for the aunt than it was for me and

wished her well on the rest of their travels. At the very least I now have a great story to tell

about my worst flying experience.

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