“Flying is safer than driving. Statistically there are more car accidents.” That’s what people tell you when you confide that you’re afraid of flying. It’s true, but for some reason, entering a car just doesn’t feel as scary to me. Maybe that’s because you stay on the ground the whole time.
Last week, we boarded an American Airlines jet in Phoenix, Arizona, bound for North Carolina. We had a connecting flight from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to LaGuardia Airport.
“The weather is fine,” my husband reassured me. He knows I am especially wary of turbulence.
I davened, “Please, Hashem, no bumps.” It’s the turbulence that frightens me the most, well, and also realizing that I’m thousands of feet up in the air for a prolonged period of time.
Our seats were very close to the back. I tried not to think of what one of my daughters told me: The back seats get the most bumps. I listened intently to the safety instructions. The pilot announced that it would be a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Raleigh-Durham.
The plane took off, and I davened with tremendous kavanah and recited T’hilim. The plane ascended smoothly. Then, a few minutes into the flight, it started shaking. The plane felt like it was accelerating and heading into outer space. If you like roller coasters, you would have enjoyed the up-and-down bumps. I never went on a roller coaster, because I do not enjoy bumps or being thrown up and down in any sort of manner. These bumps went on and on. The shaking and jostling felt like we were plowing through a hurricane. To say I was scared is an understatement. This was a real test of emunah for me. I kept saying, “Thank you, Hashem, for these bumps. I know you sent them to help strengthen my emunah.
“It’s a storm,” my husband said before he went to sleep. How anyone could sleep through this is a complete mystery to me.
I kept davening: “Thank you for the bumps and for when they will stop and we will land safely.” I kept repeating “Ein od milvado. Please, when will these bumps stop?”
At a certain point, it was still bumpy but not as bad, and someone had walked to the back to the restroom. The next thing that happened was the flight attendant in the back announced in a calm but determined voice, “Is there a doctor on the flight? We need a doctor in the back of the plane.”
I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. I glanced down and behind me, and I saw that there was a man who had fainted and was lying on the floor a few rows behind us.
This was scary. I started davening that he would be okay. A nurse and one or two people who must have been doctors went back there and they helped him back to his seat. I heard them say, “He’s all right.”
The rest of the flight was smooth, and I didn’t mind it because when I looked out the window, I could see land. I wanted to clap when we landed but I was embarrassed to be the only one doing it, so I didn’t.
The pilot announced that we should stay seated, as medical personnel would be boarding to attend to a sick passenger. A few people came on the plane and spoke with the man who had fainted and then they left.
Before we exited, I went over to the flight attendant in the back. I really wanted to ask her something I’ve always wanted to ask a flight attendant. “Hello,” I said. “Thank you.” She appreciated my thanks.
Then I asked, “How do you stop from being scared of all the bumps.”
She laughed. “I’ve been flying for 20 years. It’s just like potholes in the road.”
Well, I couldn’t really see how they were like potholes, but I was happy for her that she felt that way.
We made the connecting flight, and the next adventure happened when we landed in LaGuardia and were getting ready to leave the plane. So, my husband reached over to pull down his coat, and accidently the coat touched the man standing in front of us. My husband said, “Sorry, sir.”
The man responded in an angry, sarcastic voice, “Sure you are.”
We were both taken aback and not sure what to say to diffuse his anger.
There was a lady standing behind us, glaring at us, so we quickly gathered our things. I grabbed my siddur and T’hilim from the seat pocket. We both wanted to escape the angry feelings as quickly as possible. That hurried exit caused the next problem.
When we reached the luggage area, I noticed something.
“Uh, oh,” I said. “I don’t have my purse.” It had my cell phone, driver license, credit cards, etc. Yikes!
“When did you have it last?” my husband asked, trying to stay calm. He needed to make it to a minyan and now we were delayed.
I ran back to the restroom. The cleaning lady there remembered me because I had thanked her. (I tried to express a lot of thank yous since listening to Rabbi Krohn’s speech on stopping the hate. He specified the need to be respectful and express gratitude to both Jews and non-Jews.)
She said, “I remember you were here and thanked me. No one was here and there was no purse here.”
I thanked her again and ran back to the luggage area. “Maybe I left it on the plane,” I said. “We did rush off.”
One of the airline employees suggested we go to the office of the airlines. There were some nice ladies behind the counter.
I approached the desk. “I think I may have left my purse on the plane.”
“Let me see your boarding passes.”
There was a beat.
“They’re in my purse.”
We told her which flight we were on and she sent someone to the gate to check for it.
In the meantime, I davened, “Please, Hashem, in the merit of Rav Meir Baal HaNeis, please bring my purse back.” I also davened, “Thank you for the inconvenience.” I learned that it’s important to thank Hashem for inconveniences, and that means that Hashem gave me this instead of something much worse.
A few minutes later, someone from the airline called my husband. “We have your wife’s pocketbook.”
Baruch Hashem, it was found with everything intact.
We headed back home in a cab. I thanked Hashem for the safe trip home and I turned to my husband.
“Maybe next time we could drive to Arizona?”
By Susie Garber