Sunday, September 5, 2010

Maybe It's Just My Lucky Day

     Sometimes I still have problems with plane flights, particularly when I'm not looking forward to where I'm going.
     And this has been, like, the longest, hottest, most stuck-inside summer I've had since I've moved to Phoenix, and I was just at home in New York for a week where everything was lush and shady and green and I went running down by the river every day and the whole place smelled like water and I ate dinner with my family every night, so I wasn't looking forward to coming back to the desert and my one-bedroom place and running on a treadmill.
     And the plane from Buffalo to Detroit was one of those teensy little puddle jumpers and I was sitting right over the wing and we got up into the air and it was all real pretty and green and the sun was setting...and then the engine noise stopped.
      I panicked.
     There was nothing wrong with the plane, at all; it had to do with my perspective and where I was sitting on the plane and normal function in a headwind, but it seriously sounded like the engines had shut off and the only noise was the wind, and I freaked.
    But then the noise started again, and no one else freaked, so I relaxed a little, even though it kept happening; finally we began approaching Detroit, and then the pilot announced that there was a holdup because of the weather and we would be in a holding pattern for the next 25 minutes at 14,000 feet and I death-grabbed at the seatrest and tried not to show that I was about to hyperventilate, because that's not nice to the other passengers.
    Five minutes later, the pilot came on the intercom again and said, "Looks like it's our lucky day, we've been cleared to land and we'll be on the ground in 10 minutes," and then, in a colossal tribute to bad patterns of thinking, I freaked out more.  I was thinking, Don't say that!  You're going to f*cking jinx us!  LUCKY?!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
    Then the rational part of my brain looked up and went, "You know, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that things could go well.  Maybe it is your lucky day."
     I told my rationality to shut the hell up, and then we landed, and everything was fine.

     The next day, I went in to work, and had a nearly parallel experience:  while I was on vacation there was a huge miscommunication, and a video project we'd been working on hadn't gotten submitted before a contest deadline, and it was just as much my fault as my coworker's.  I panicked.  I called my dad and freaked out and didn't know what to do, or how to tell my boss we'd dropped the ball on something the president of the Science Center had specifically asked us to do.
   My dad (playing the part of the rational section of my brain) said, "Why don't you call the contest people and ask them if you can submit it late?"
   "I guess," I agreed, knowing that deadlines were deadlines and nobody who had been hired to run a contest would be that soft or nice.
   But I wrote an e-mail, explaining the problem, and asking her to please not penalize the kids who had done the video for my mistakes in communication at work and could we please please please still submit the video, and while I was sitting there practicing my resignation letter and trying to remember how to breathe, she responded with,
   "Yes, of course.  Just submit to such-and-such a website and send me the link."

   Somehow, I've allowed myself to become the kind of person who expects to die in a plane crash and be denied kindnesses by strangers.  My brain is so prepared for my hopes and dreams to be crushed like leaves underfoot that the concept, "Maybe we're just lucky" is foreign to me.  Which is way scarier than anything that could possibly go wrong.

    So I'm going to go outside now, where it's sunny, and try to find my luck again.

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