Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Nerd's Guide to Surviving Plane Rides.

Hey y'all.  I just got back from a trip this weekend, and let me tell you, planes make me nauseous.  I'm not afraid of flying or anything like that, just pressure buildup in my stomach and ears.  I once made it to China with a blocked ear and couldn't hear right for three days.

But I just went down to Texas, so no fifteen hours on a plane for me.  Only three.  That, however, doesn't mean my stomach handled it better.  And on this particular trip, I got some inspiration for surviving the trip.  My biggest piece of advice happens to be really nerdy.

So we've all heard the advice about chewing gum, sucking on candy, and yawning.  These are all nice hints and tidbits, but speaking from experience, they are all slighlty better than useless.  They can relieve only a little bit of your pressure, but if you're feeling grouchy or uncomfortable, they won't help you.  That, and for some reason chewing gum in the air for a while makes my stomach feel weird.  Probably something to do with the pressurized cabin and whatnot.

In any case, the absolute best advice I can give you on an airplane is to be calm.  Be relaxed.  Get enough sleep the night before.  Being afraid of the flight (or of the nausea) will only cause you to feel sick, and thus end up fearing the flight even more.  Bringing a travel pillow and a blanket are good ideas as well. 

But what if you don't have a pillow or a blanket, and you've already found out that airplane equivalents are worthess?  What if you stayed up late packing and didn't sleep much?  Or what if you're just darn scared of crashing?  So now you're on the plane and it's about to take off.  What do you do?

Well, first of all, it's probably common knowledge by now that you're more likely to die in a car accident than a plane accident.  Cars are closer together and have more things to potentially crash into.  Planes seem scary because they give you that repetitive speech about plane safety, and nobody warns you about drunk driving every time you get into a car. 

What's my nerd solution?  Star Trek.  No really.  Pretend you're on Star Trek.  You're on a shuttle traveling to your new assignment.  So what are you?  A science officer?  A cadet? What's your mission?  Instead of dwelling on your upcoming plane ride, think about that instead.  Or your favorite episode of Star Trek.  Or whether Kirk or Picard is better. 

As the plane takes off, it's actually pretty easy to keep up this fantasy.  When you pass through clouds, you can pretend it's a nebula.  And if you take off at night, the bright lights of a city look remarkably similar to the side of a Borg cube, especially when the plane is turning and you can see the city at somewhat of a sideways angle.

If, however, you are not near the window, simply look at the people around you and imagine why they are each going to the same space station/spaceship that you are.  Pretend that the motions of the plane taking off and landing are normal proceedures, and that turbulence is a space battle or waves of tacheon energy hitting the ship. 

For a more fantasy-neutral solution, lean away when the plane dips down a certain direction, and pretend you're surfing.  You know how as a kid you would stand up in the middle of the bus or a big van so that you could pretend you were surfing on the road?  Well use the same principle here, so that annoying turbulence becomes a fun ride.  This is helped by listening to really exciting rock or techno music when you board.  They make you turn off electronics when the plane takes off, but listen just beforehand to songs like The Final Countdown and Cities of the Future -- energetic but more or less uplifting -- so that you will have it stuck in your head, and happily anticipate your flight or whatever destination you have ahead of you.

Is this juvenile?  Probably, but as long as you don't say anything about it, no one will judge you.  The key here is to just be calm and have a good attitude while flying so that your stomach and sinuses are calm.  Or you could just take a sleeping pill, but where's the fun in that?

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