I'm back from yet another adventure in flying.
And I'm happy to report that everyone survived, including me.
We begin when I find myself on one of those commuter flights, which I hate because I'm afraid to fly.
And there's nothing like a small plane to remind you of your own mortality.
Because there's nothing underneath the plane except the earth.
At something of a distance.
Usually, I confide in the flight attendants that I'm afraid to fly, and they always tell me that air travel is safer than being on a road, that some turbulence is normal, and that the captain has everything under control.
Generally, I take comfort in that response, until this particular flight, when the captain seemed less than reliable.
Let me explain.
Because I'm so paranoid about flying, I begin checking everything, even in the jetway. I always make sure the jetway meets the plane exactly, so there's no gap. I do this because I read that once there was a gap and somebody fell through it onto the tarmac and died.
So I'm all over the jetway-gap issue.
By the way, I never worry about terrorists. I leave that to government agencies. I can't do everything, and I've got my eye on that jetway gap.
Then I go on board the plane and, before I sit down, I check the cockpit. I make sure the pilots don't look too old, too young, or too drunk.
Because I read an article about drunk airline pilots, so I conduct field sobriety tests.
To wit, I always make a point of saying hello to the pilots, so they'll have to say hello back.
I want to smell their breath.
If it smells like onions, terrific.
If it smells like vodka, less so.
And if they don't say hello back, I ask them a question, like:
"How are you?"
"Do you expect any turbulence?"
"Are you single?"
I never ask that.
I only think it.
Laugh all you want to, but if you're on one of my flights, you have me to thank for getting home safely.
Anyway, on the flight in question, I saw the pilot and asked him, "How are you?"
He answered: "Tired and cranky."
His breath was fine.
His answer wasn't.
I forced a smile, though I was really thinking, How tired?
And how cranky?
And, believe it or not, I wasn't the only one thinking these things, because the next thing that happened is that somebody on board had a medical issue, which provoked discussion between the pilots and the flight attendants on how to solve the problem, and all the passengers eavesdropped and heard the tired-and-cranky pilot bossing around the other pilot and the flight attendants.
In a very tired and cranky way.
So while the tired-and-cranky pilot went off to deal with the medical issue, I asked the guy next to me, "Does the pilot seem depressed to you?"
The guy answered, "You mean Mr. Job Satisfaction?"
I laughed. "That's Captain Job Satisfaction to you, sir."
Then he laughed.
But we were both nervous, and all of us passengers started looking at one another, wondering. Because we all read the article about that pilot in Switzerland flying people into a mountain, and I prefer to die another way, perhaps at the mall, and not just yet.
So if you know me, you know what happened next.
I called the flight attendant over and asked her if the tired-and-cranky pilot was going to fly us into a mountain.
I said it.
I no longer edit myself.
If I'm worried, guaranteed I'm going to worry you.
She answered, "No, he'd never hurt anybody."
I thought about getting off the flight, but I ordered a drink instead.
In the end, we landed safely.
And I was the one with the vodka breath.