Several years ago, I committed to serve as moral support, coffee brewer, cook, and scribe to a friend who was about to have a challenging, life-defining week. The plan was that I would fly up in a chartered plane, and then we would drive home together in one car at week’s end. When the arrangements were made, I only needed to deal with my standard “I hate flying” nerves, significantly elevated by the anticipated small size of the airplane.
On the day I was to depart, the weather was awful—wind, sideways rain, crashes of lightning, all happening at once. My expectation was that my friend would call and relieve me of the commitment, but that did not happen. She was counting on me, and on the appointed day, I was going to fly over and through those Tennessee mountains, come hell or high water.
When I arrived at the hangar, I spotted the tiny aircraft. The plane could only hold two passengers in addition to the pilot and co-pilot, so we are talking small plane. My risk-assessment meter was ticking up at an alarming rate as one of the two pilots took my bag and the other escorted me, the sole passenger, under a huge umbrella about the size of the plane’s wing up the flimsy steps into my seat. No one needed to review the safety procedures. I found my seatbelt lickety-split and clicked it into place.
I remember being alarmed that no one said, “We are going to sit here on the runway and see if the storm lets up before we take off.” Not even a moment’s hesitation was contemplated. My guess is they saw in my eyes that, if they didn’t get moving, I might bolt for the door. Off we went, tossed left and right, up and down—not just on take-off, but the entire time.
At some point along the way in the midst of my restrained hysteria, I began to appreciate that the two pilots were completely unaffected by the situation. Though I couldn’t hear them over the noise of the aircraft and pelting rain, they seemed to be having a grand time, swapping stories in animated fashion as we flew through the storm. They were smiling, laughing, and at ease. They had assessed the risk and found none as compared to my absolute conviction that I had said my last goodbye to my husband prior to take off.
Witnessing those pilots, calm and in control, was an epiphany for me. There was, in fact, no reason for concern. Everything was fine, and they knew it, regardless of my anxieties. Fear of the unknown can unduly influence our assessment of risk. In such times, relying on someone else may be just the ticket to get us through the storm.
I’m here if you need me. Until then, y’all behave.