Except on a rare one or two occasions when I've been lucky enough to fall asleep before we pull away from the gate, I’ve always been inclined to watch the attendants give their pre-takeoff safety talk. In part, I pay attention because theirs is a thankless job and it’s a small attempt to show appreciation for their efforts to make me comfortable. Perhaps I pay attention because I had good teachers at school and home who taught me to be respectful by listening. And maybe I pay attention because on my first flight as a wide eyed 6th grader, I found these women of the skies a little glamorous and fascinating.
It’s also a most definite possibility that my attention comes from the deeply rooted and highly functioning Dinosaur Brain nestled between my ears that does not, cannot!, and despite all engineering and scientific evidence, refuses to understand how planes stay in the sky. This bajillion ton metal beast is going to float in the air?!!? Bullshit, says Dinosaur Brain, and just keeps on talking….Oh gawd…. The pilot just came on the intercom, and he sounds so gravelly. Did he have enough coffee, is his eyesight still good despite sounding anciently old, did he get enough sleep? If a plane were to crash would you feel pain or would you just black out? Will my head implode or explode suddenly if the cabin pressure makes a dramatic change!?!? AAACK!! WHY AM I HEEEEEERE?!?
I have always counteracted my alarm-happy Dinosaur Brain with the observational evidence that if the flight attendants are calm, collected and pleasant, it means that all systems must be working as they should. So keep an eye on those gals/guys for changes in demeanor. If ever an attendant were to panic and lose her/his shit, well, that would be a different set of evidence and Dinosaur Brain would win.
Why some of us are more “in tune” with the D-Brain or less, I don't know. Is it a gender thing? A result of our upbringing and the activities our parents did/did not allow us to do and how we followed orders or rebelled? Birth order? Job title? Astrological sign? Whether we prefer Mozart or Rage Against the Machine? Does it matter?
Mine is a highly active D-Brain. Here I sit on my flight to Atlanta, four hours and five minutes long trying to rationalize my Dinosaur back into its cave (Dinosaurs are like Dragons and fire breathing Dragons live in caves, right? Right. )
Not unlike climbing unprotectable off-widths, entering a steep chute of deep pow on skis that are too long, cross-country hiking without map or compass, driving home at 2am just as the frat-packed bar down the street closes or going on a first – or third - date, while flying D-Brain just won’t shut the hell up. Chatterbox. And sometimes I just like to sweetness of silence, the space of quiet. I have no problem riding in a car or sitting next to someone on the couch in silence, reading a book, looking out the window, mining belly button lint.
There have been a lot of good posts and conversations lately about the great output of D-Brain’s efforts: fear. Getting over it, supporting one another in it, how to manage and deal. They’ve been helpful to read, I’ve learned, felt camaraderie, been reassured.
But maybe we are (read: I am) thinking too hard. The D-brain is there for a reason after all; to keep us from diving face first into a mesmerizing, warm campfire on a frozen night, or launching off the top of a peak to fly with the birds without so much as a wingsuit to catch our fall.
Why not let the D-Brain be there without putting incessant pressure on ourselves to ditch it? Maybe the D-brain just wants to be invited to the party, to be included and to belong. Maybe it will shut up already, if we acknowledge its voice and presence. Maybe that’s why it keeps yapping so freaking loud. What would be the worst that would happen anyways, if we invited it to the crag, into the backcountry or to sit in the empty seat next ours on this jumbo, way-bigger-than-the-little-green-house jet?
Ok, fine, D-Brain, hello, yes I heard you, welcome to flight 2951. Here we are at 20,000feet, crap that would be a long ways to tumble if we trip, so let’s keep our feet steady. I could use a hand to hold right about now, maybe I can hold yours? Then I wouldn’t have to dig my fingers into this shoddy armrest. Is this a Boeing plane? Gotta support the home team. Gawd I hate turbulence, you too? We have so much in common. Sorry for squeezing so tight. But I feel better, how about you?