Dave always says he can’t understand why I still get nervous about flying. Several years ago we flew in a tiny 16 seater, across the Cook Strait (NZ) through a terrible storm (the pilots were flying around the huge red blotches on the radar). Surely that experience knocked any fear of flying out of my system? At the time I felt like I was going to vomit and the only thing keeping the nausea at bay was the breeze coming from the sick bag I was waving in front of my flushed face – which was ok until my blood sugar bottomed out and I started to get pins and needles, followed by numbness up through my fingers, hands, arms and then into my face. Sometimes you’ve just got to bury your head in your lap and cry (regardless of all the tough mining types sitting behind you!)
Sure, Friday’s flight wasn’t on par with that… but smelling smoke in the cabin and seeing the general rush of people from the back of the plane to the front, and the head flight attendant having a panicked looked in her eye despite her outward version of ‘calm-in-the-eye-of-a-crisis’ – well that’s just plain frightening in its own right.
We weren’t even meant to be on the 5am flight out of Brisbane, as I blogged Thursday. There was talk of oxygen masks being dropped, and assurances there would be enough as the head flight attended squeezed too many people into not enough seats up the front… and a horrendous smell permeating up from below our seats and up the side of the cabin (even up the front where we were sitting). Mr D squeezed in between Dave and I, so a man from down the back could sit in Dave’s original seat, his head buried inside his tshirt and complaining he was having trouble breathing.
Even when we found out it was a stove in the aft galley causing the drama, that it was now under control and it was unlikely the oxygen masks would come down – I didn’t feel any better. There is something about panic, even once the worst of it has past, which continues to skew your perspective. The realisation of just how vulnerable you are up in the air… and the heat and pressure of your six year old sitting on your lap.
There was a rush to prepare the cabin for landing and down we went. I was looking out the window as we cut down throught the top layer of clouds and then through the lower lying clouds, feeling the urgency in the descent. On needle points as the fetid air oscillating up every few minutes and I turned away hoping it wasn’t something going wrong again.
We were cleared for an emergency landing ten minutes ahead of schedule and touched down with the plane overloaded unevenly weighted and coming to a very slow stop. We pulled up opposite four fire trucks waiting on the tarmac.
We were instructed to sit quietly until we were given the clear to exit and everyone had to get off through the front doors. The people now sitting up the front waiting to go back to retrieve their belongings. Only one other time (the trip in NZ) have I been so glad to finally make terra firma.
On the concourse we were able to look out over the emergency vehicles converged on the plane and further down a reporter and camera man were stopping people to interview them. I joked to Dave as we waited at the baggage carousel they should have stopped us. We could have told them how we were never meant to be on that flights – ours had been cancelled the day before. About how they’d booked our seating with all of sitting apart and Mr D, 13 rows behind in row 21 by himself. And then the oven caught fire!
I was asked on Thursday what the Universe was telling me: decided it was telling me to appreciate what I had. To stop and smell the roses. And I did just that once we were in Ballarat, heading up the mainstreet for a gourmet pie. There were plenty of front gardens in bloom and we stopped at every single one.