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How One Woman Overcame Her Fear of Flying

I’ve been afraid of flying for as long as I can remember. As the daughter of three rabbis (mother, father, stepfather), words like “hijacking” and “terrorism” were common kitchen table talk at home when we talked about Israel.

September 11, 2001, happened to be my very first day of high school. As an American and a native New Yorker who called the Upper West Side of Manhattan home, I, like many, felt as if my world had completely fallen apart. All because of two planes.

For almost two years, airplanes were out of the question.

Related: The 11 Strangest Things People Ask for on a Plane

But life started to happen. I wanted to do things. I had an amazing job at Chanel and got an opportunity to go to Paris for fashion week. I couldn’t turn it down, despite every bone in my body telling me I couldn’t get on the plane. So I kicked my crazy Jewish neurosis into full gear and created various rituals surrounding air travel that have made flying a little less terrifying for me.

How One Woman Overcame Her Fear of Flying

(Photo: Thinkstock)

I Have to Talk to the Pilot

I try to board as early as possible, no matter what group number I’m actually in, to ensure I get the most important part of my ritual taken care of. Without this step, there’s a solid chance I will not be able to take the flight.

Upon boarding, I graciously greet one of the flight attendees. “I’m a fearful flier,” I say. “Is it possible to speak to the pilot really quickly before we take off?”

Related: The 15 Most Ridiculous Things People Say on a Plane

Usually the flight attendants are lovely, and introduce me promptly to both pilots. (Thanks JetBlue, American Airlines, and United!)

I ask the following questions:

When, if ever, have you taken this flight before?

What is the flight time?

How are you feeling today? (I want to know about their health.)

When are we expecting turbulence? On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is this turbulence? And what is the cause of today’s turbulence?

After I get my questions answered, I thank the pilots, and, of course, the flight attendant who allowed me to talk with them. I then tell the flight attendant what seat I’m in, asking him or her to let me know if turbulence is about to start. This way, I’m prepared.

seperated from my luggage

(Photo: Thinkstock)

I Can’t Be Separated From My Luggage

Checking luggage gives me more anxiety, so I always take carry-on. Whether the trip is two days or two weeks long, that bag is coming with me aboard the aircraft. This means that I’ve developed expert packing tips. I even leave room when I travel to places with shopping opportunities to ensure my newly purchased items will have room in my carry-on.

Related: The People You Don’t Want to Sit Next to on a Plane

flying solo

(Photo: Getty Images)

I Can’t Fly Alone

I need to have someone I know on the flight with me. I am lucky that my job has always allowed me to visit desirable destinations that friends and family members also want to visit. If I don’t have a flying partner, then I am not flying.

distracted while flying

(Photo: Getty Images)

I Need to Be Distracted

Before arriving at the airport, it’s absolutely essential that I have more than enough preloaded entertainment on my laptop, iPad, or both. Typically, this means downloading movies with running times that match the entire length of the flight plus at least one hour. This way, if for some reason the plane has to circle before landing, I have an hour of additional content for my viewing pleasure.

Movies, books, and television shows obviously must be “appropriate” for the plane and cannot contain extreme violence, crashing/accidents of any kind (plane, train, automobile). I will not watch “Speed.” I will not even watch “When Harry Met Sally,” because there is a plane in the movie. 

snacks for flying

(Photo: Getty Images)

Snacks Are Imperative

I have an irrational fear of going hungry on the plane. This probably stems from watching “Lost” and thinking, “Wow, if they had all bought more post-security snacks, and those snacks hadn’t blown up in the crash, perhaps they wouldn’t have to eat that weird Dharma Initiative food. The following must be purchased after getting through security:

  • Large water bottle
  • Something sweet (usually fruit-flavored Mentos or M&Ms)
  • Something salty (usually Nacho Doritos)
  • Raw almonds
  • Something meal-like (that chic airport crudité thing with celery and ranch dressing, or a muffin, despite the fact that I’m gluten-free)

meditate while flying

(Photo: Getty Images)

Finally, I Medicate 

This is the medication I take on the plane with me:

  • Klonopin is taken for the flight (typically a half or one per hour, depending on my anxiety level), but I bring everything else (and don’t always take it), in case the Klonopin doesn’t work.
  • Xanax (for fear that the Klonopin won’t work)
  • Amoxicillin (never hurts to have an antibiotic)
  • Cipro (for fear of getting a UTI)
  • Pyridium (for pain if I get a UTI)
  • Pepto-Bismol (I mean, everyone should carry this magic juice at all times.)
  • Tums (candy for the soul)
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Ruthie Friedlander is the Deputy Editor of ELLE.com. Born and raised in Manhattan, she attended NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Studies, where she majored in computer science (yes, CODING!) and journalism. Like all good New Yorkers, Ruthie battles a severe caffeine addiction and is on a first-name basis with her dry cleaner, Jose. She currently lives in Greenwich Village with her cat, Gracie.

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