Flying with a Cold

17 05 2010

Have you ever flown on a plane with a bad head cold?  Because it feels kinda like the universe is punching you in the face.

My friend got married in New Orleans this weekend, and fortunately, I was in the absolute worst peak of my sickness the day I was scheduled to fly down.  So I get to the airport on Friday about an hour before the plane takes off, and they tell me I’m the last to check in, so I get to sit in the very last row on the plane, right next to the sweet-smelling bathroom in a seat that doesn’t recline.  Armed with a purse full of Dayquils, nasal spray, gum and Kleenex, I take my seat, and a very nice Japanese couple sits down next to me.  The plane takes off.

As we are ascending into the air, I feel the pressure lift off of my sinuses and ears.  OK, this is doable, I think, as I desperately try to push my back and head against a seat that refuses to recline at all.  People start whooshing past me to get in and out of the bathroom, but I can only barely smell the poop because my nose is so stopped up.  Alright, just an hour and a half of sitting straight up at a 90-degree angle next to the bathroom, I say to myself. At least the Dayquils are kicking in.

Fast-forward an hour.  I’m quietly playing Boggle on my iPhone since I can’t find anything to lean my head against when suddenly, the seatbelt light turns on and the plane starts to slowly decline.  My head starts to feel weird.  Pressure on the nose, pressure on the ears.  Slight headache.  I hold my nose and blow really hard, hoping to get my ears to pop, but they don’t.  We decline 50 more feet, and my head starts to really ache, and my ears feel like they’re going to shoot off of the side of my face. 50 more feet, I have sharp, searing pains shooting down my neck and into my shoulders, I am crippled over in pain, chewing the air like a psychopath trying to release the pressure in my head and honestly considering the possibility that I might die.  I turn to my left, and the Japanese woman sitting beside me is heavily breathing into her puke bag while her husband rubs her shoulders.  I make eye contact with him as the worst pain I’ve ever experienced grips my entire face, neck and head, and I become convinced that he is the last man I will ever lay eyes on.

Either my head is going to explode or I’m going to have a stroke, I think to myself.  So this is what it feels like at the end.

My expression must have scared the poor guy, because he briefly stopped rubbing his wife’s back and stared at me with eyes as big as saucers.

“Are you ok, Miss?” he says.  His wife looks up from her vomit bag.

“I think my head is going to explode,” I say, squinting, holding my head in my hands and desperately chewing the air.

The pain finally subsides and we land about ten excruciating minutes later, and I realize that I am going to have to do this again on the New Orleans leg of the flight.  Sure enough, the second flight is worse than the first, and I stumble off the plane in a miserable daze, shocked to still be alive.

I was so traumatized by this series of death rides that I considered taking a train back to D.C. yesterday.  It was storming in New Orleans, I was convinced my flight was going to be delayed (they always are out of that airport), and I was still feeling sick and hungover on top of it.  But I sucked it up and trekked to the airport.

I get there 10 minutes late, bracing for the worst, but it seems that not only is the flight running on time, but I am on a non-stop.  So I go to pick my seat assignment, and it seems that again, I am the last person to check in, but instead of getting stuck with the worst seat on the flight, the last seat available is seat 3C.  Wait a minute, I think to myself.  3C… isn’t that business class?

Yes, I have been auto-upgraded to business class.  So I take my extra-wide, cozy, reclining seat at the front of the plane and the woman next to me offers me the Vanity Fair that she is done reading.  The waiter walks by and offers me a basket full of like 10 different types of snacks.  But I turn them both down, recline my seat all the way back, and sleep like a baby the whole glorious three-hour flight.

Now, I’m not a very religious person, but I am convinced that there was some kind of cosmic shit going on this weekend.  The universe punched me in the face, and then it felt the need to apologize.  Universe, I accept your apology, but please don’t ever do that to me again.




2 responses

17 05 2010

I know what you mean, LB, about flying in the back seat. When I was a travel agent and had a large group on the plane, I had a free seat and guess where – in the back. Returning from Europe in the last seat that will not recline, as you say sitting at a 90 degree angle across the ocean, I thought I would die. And on those overseas flights, there are about 8 toilets around the back of the plane so I got the benefit of those and unfortunately I did not have a cold. You think the Universe or cosmic rays or something helped you to get a business class seat on the way home. Know what we used to say when we had a bit of good luck ??? I’m living at the foot of the cross. So dont look to the skies for help, LB, just part yourself at the foot of the cross. You should be OK.

18 05 2010

part yourself ??? don’t do that – I mean park yourself. I would hate to see you parted.

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