Fly Girl by Deb Tish

Ever since 9/11, I’ve been especially uninterested in flying. It gave me great peace of mind to know I had no plans to go anywhere beyond a day’s drive or train ride. So when my LA publicist suggested launching Town House from out West, my knees went weak.

I would have to board a plane.

To ease back into flying, my husband and I made a quick trip to New York in January. The flight was 55 minutes long. Not even an hour. It was the perfect reintroduction to flying. Both flights were smooth, uneventful. Fun, even.

The five-hour journey to LAX was no longer going to be a problem. Or so I told myself. My son and I boarded the plane calm, happy. He had carried two Stephen King books and a Kit Kat. I carried Augusten Burrough’s Dry and a handful of celeb tabloids. Our travelling mate was a woman in such a deep sleep we felt we had the row to ourselves. The sun was shining, the air was calm–it was going to be a smooth flight.

Only it wasn’t.

Halfway across the country, the plane started bobbing around like a bottle in the white caps. I explained to my son that turbulence was nothing more than bumps on the road. That the plane was meant to withstand it. That the flight attendants weren’t even bothered. I almost believed myself.

Then the plane plunged a few feet. Fast. Drinks spilled. Our sleeping neighbor woke up and reached for her barf bag.

Passengers screamed.

Something happens when airline passengers scream. Nervous fliers begin to think they have every reason to panic. I looked around for someone with a reassuring face. Someone who would smile at me and say, “What, that little bump? Eh, that was nothing.” I waited for the captain to make an announcement assuring us that all was well. Instead, a woman scrambled toward the bathroom and threw up in the aisle beside my foot.

I had no watch, so I asked a man how much longer until we land. He checked his watch as the plane continued to thump around. Only two more hours, he said.

Two. More. Hours.

My son seemed unperturbed and I couldn’t focus on my book, so I pulled out my trashy magazines and tried to lose myself in rock ’em, sock ’em celebrity news like Jennifer Garner swishing down a slide with her baby, Bjork wearing yet another frightful outfit, and Angelina Jolie flirting with some French guy (there’s a big surprise).

It didn’t work. If tabloids seems lame at the grocery checkout, believe me, when you’re stuck on a plane with your child, silently praying for both your lives, with another 120 minutes to go–the size of Britney’s glutes takes on a whole new level of shallowness.

So what did I do to calm myself down? I used my therapist’s techniques. I put on the headphones, closed my eyes, turned on classical music and counted to 31 by odd numbers. One-three, three-one, one-three-five…and so on. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy and it works. Just ask my Town House protagonist, Jack Madigan. Within a couple of minutes, I had myself believing I was driving along a bumpy road and actually came to enjoy the motion.

The rest of the flight was mercifully smooth. When the plane landed in LA, I joked around a bit with the flight attendant, told her about my earlier fears. She said “What, those bumps? Those are nothing to worry about.” 

“Never?” I asked. 



She smiled and touched my arm. “Ever.”

It was what I needed to hear if I was ever going to board the flight home.

Then, in the galley just behind her, I spied a well-loved National Enquirer. I thanked her for her reassurance and handed her my stack of unread magazines.

She seemed like a girl who could stomach celebrity gossip under any conditions.

15 Replies to “Fly Girl by Deb Tish”

  1. I’m none of the few people I know that actually enjoys flying. I like airports. I like figuring out the best techniques to get quickly through security. I still have a kid’s fascination with airplanes. I like looking out the window and marveling at just how freakin’ BIG this country is, and how much of it is empty space or farmland.

    But I’ll admit, I’m not that big a fan of turbulence, either.

  2. Tish, having the same fear, I can appreciate this story. I’m so impressed you were able to calm yourself down with cognitive therapy. It’s never worked for me. The last time I saw an alligator, I couldn’t breathe and nearly fainted. Which, if you think about it, isn’t all that practical when faced with man-eating monsters.

  3. I know how you felt. I took my first flight last year when we book our family vacation in Orlando. I was so nervous boarding the plane and I thought my eardrums were going to explode during takeoff. The flight was short and I think my excitement about our vacation relaxed me and I just looked out the window the whole flight watching the land pass by below. By the time we were back for our flight home I was not nervous at all. Well, I wasn’t until we were flying and I noticed all the dark storm clouds we were flying through. Then I realized we were no longer over land but flying over the Gulf. It turns out the plane had to change our route home to avoid the storms. I was terrified when I relized we were flying over water. I was gripping the seat so hard my hands hurt for hours after the flight.

  4. I used to panic on planes, too–until I read an article about how much safer they are than cars. Now I’m quite calm in the air, but a complete mess on the highway. When I see you, you’ll have to teach me that cognitive therapy stuff!

  5. Tish, I so relate to what you’re saying.
    I USED to be good on planes, but after my kids were born something shifted inside and now I find myself having panic attacks, picturing the plane plummeting to the earth/sea below.

    P.S. Townhouse arrived yesterday and it now sits on top my TBR pile along with Catching Genius and Promise Not To Tell and Good Things and … at least a dozen others. I’ve got a lot of reading to do this summer *whoop* Can’t wait for July 🙂

  6. I saw Town House on a front table at a bookstore in Victoria when I was traveling for work. I felt very smug and pointed it out to the clerk. “I know the writer” I said feeling very cool kid.

  7. Isn’t this exactly the sort of thing that vodka cures? What? No?

    Tish, I love this post, and my copies of Town House arrived yesterday and I only have ONE book to finish before I start it! I’ve checked out the book in B&N and Borders and it looks great!

  8. Would you believe I am waiting to receive ALL of yours. I wanted to buy them in the States because my husband hates my online shopping, but wound up sick as a dog, so never got the chance to shop! So then I dragged my sorry bottom back up here and ordered online. So much for good intentions. But now I have 3 good books coming–all of which will leapfrog to the top of my TBR pile.

    And Kristy darling, yes, vodka IS the cure. Sadly, I was empty handed and the flight offered nothing but wine and beer. Ghastly.

  9. I’ve flown maybe three times in my entire life. It scares the hell out of me, to be honest. I always say that short people (and trust me, I’m really short… Think “Munchkin short”) need to stay near the ground.

  10. Tish, I’m a little nervous about flying, too. Thankfully, my next flight is going to be a very short one and I’ve already got my reading material picked out — my copy of TOWN HOUSE arrived at my local bookstore yesterday. It’s the first thing I packed for the trip.

  11. Hi Tish,

    Just a note to say I am halfway through TOWNHOUSE and loving it, so much so that I don’t want the experience to end. With that in mind, I’ve restricted myself to a chapter at a time, you know, like those expensive imported cookies covered in real dark chocolate, the kind you hide from the kids, and you have just one or two with a cup of tea when they’re at school. Oh, who am I kidding…I’m gobbling the whole damn book just like those expensive imported cookies…


  12. Pam – Thank you so much! Would you be willing to write this on my Amazon page as a review? It’s the most perfect endorsement I could ask for!

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