A boy landed on a flight in Sweden sitting in the airplane restroom, scared out of his mind, and it was all my fault!
I’m sure that if a psychiatrist diagnosed me writing my first novel, Collisions, about a plane crash, it would definitely have something to do with my fear of flying. When I get on a plane, the entire flight feels like I am stuck in the garbage compactor with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca in Star Wars-Episode IV. The walls of the plane feel like they are slowly closing in on me the entire flight.
No matter how long the flight is, I literally like to stare at the headrest in front of my seat for the entire time. I don’t like to talk to anybody, eat the food, or watch the movies on the flight. Before I left to study abroad in Glasgow, Scotland in 2001, my doctor prescribed me with Xanax to take on all of my flights. I still stared at the headrest in front of me, but now I could also get some shuteye on flights. I had to double up on my Xanax intake on that flight to Scotland, since it was literally one week after 9/11. I slept the entire flight, and even fell asleep in the taxi from the airport to the University of Glasgow.
In 2009, I was selected to coach an under-19 women’s soccer team representing players from all over the United States at the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden. The Gothia Cup is one of the largest youth tournaments of any sport in the world. There were boys and girls teams with our group from the ages of nine to nineteen.
I did okay on the flight from Raleigh to New York. About forty-five minutes before the nine hour flight to Sweden was set to leave, my nerves were in high gear. I went into the bathroom to take my dosage of Xanax, ready to be knocked out before the flight even left the runway.
Unfortunately, when I walked out of the bathroom, the director of our group was looking for me. He had a nine-year-old little boy, who just happened to be the youngest member of our group. He told me that the boy was scared to fly and had never left his parents before, and he was going to sit by me on the flight. First off, why in the world would you send your child halfway across the world for a week long soccer tournament, if he has never been away from you in his life?
As I walked past some of the other coaches in the group who finagled their way to get first class seats, the drowsiness of the medicine began to kick in. I sat down with the young boy beside me, and drifted off right after the buckle your seat belt sign lit up. In what couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, I was startled awake by a tug on my shirt. With tears in his eyes, the boy told me he wanted to get them to turn the plane back around. In my woozy state, I tried to calm him down. Once we were done talking, I popped another half Xanax to knock myself back out.
After dozing back off, I felt another tug and the boy needed me to walk him to the bathroom. We got back and I realized that there was no way I was sleeping, so I went back to staring at the headrest for the rest of the flight or that was the plan. After several more tugs on the shirt to see the boy crying, the flight attendants brought the food trays around. I didn’t eat anything, but the boy downed everything on his plate.
After the trays were removed, I popped another Xanax (these were the smallest dosage pills) and was soon back asleep. This time I was awoken with vomit to the shoes. The boy became airsick and threw up all over the floor and my shoes. This sent me into major freak out mode, and at this point I was hoping they would turn the plane around or land it on some unknown island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The mess was all cleaned up, but the boy was nowhere close to being done throwing up. He must have eaten a man’s worth of food that whole week, because is was non-stop. For the next five hours I dealt with him getting sick, wanting to go to the bathroom, or crying.
With about one hour left in the flight, I was faced with a personal ultimatum. Since the meds were wearing off, I could suffer through the last hour, or take one more pill and be drowsy when we arrived. I popped the pill in my mouth, and became super tired this time. With thirty minutes left in the flight, the boy wanted to go back to the bathroom because he had to go number two. I told him he could handle it himself this time, and I passed out as soon as I saw him enter the bathroom.
This time I was awoken by that jolt you feel when the plane wheels are positioned for landing. I noticed that the seat belt signs were on and that we were very close to landing. I looked to the seat to my left, and there was no sign of the little boy. I was also extremely groggy, but I tried to push the call attendant button and nobody came to check what I needed, since the flight attendants were already buckled in for landing. I honestly thought about getting up and going to see where the kid was, but I figured maybe he just found another seat or the attendants had him.
The plane landed in Sweden with a rather rocky landing. When the unbuckle seat belt sign came off, I stood up to see a rather perturbed looking older blonde woman escorting the boy back to his seat. The kid literally looked like he had just seen a ghost. To give him some credit, I am not really sure how anyone would handle landing in the restroom of a plane.
The flight attendant gave me a death glare and asked why I let him sit in the bathroom for the landing. I had no response, because well, how in the heck do you respond to that question? I did see the boy throughout our time in Sweden and he didn’t seem to hold any ill-will towards me, even though I am sure he still remembers landing on a plane in the bathroom. Needless to say, I didn’t have any kids to look after on the return flight, and rested peacefully for the entire trip.