January 6, 2013

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On Air Travel

I took a red eye flight back to New York last evening, and when my NyQuil cocktail failed me I spent many sleepless hours contemplating the experience of air travel. 

When I was 14, I went to Italy with a group of kids from my high school; like many things that happen at that age, the flight there was traumatizing. The turbulence on that flight was so bad, we were sure we were going to crash. People were hugging, holding hands, crying -- it was a metal tube of emotion on Alitalia that day.

I haven't experienced anything like that since, but you can bet your balls that I don't get on a plane without paying thorough attention to the safety procedures, memorizing where all of the emergency exits are, visualizing putting an oxygen mask over my head, and touching under my seat to make sure my life vest is there. (And also instilling terror and paranoia into anyone sitting beside me.)

This most recent flight was no different. As I said my goodbyes to all of my friends and family, each and every person instructed me to "have a safe flight." I found this rather unsettling. I have no control over how safe my flight is. It's completely out of my hands! Shouldn't we tell people that we "hope" they have a safe flight? Or "best wishes for a safe flight?" And we say, "have a safe flight" so nonchalantly, as if we're guaranteed safe flights anyway. Which, as I've learned, we are not.

The sun rising over New York City from my airplane. [via A Haute Mess on Instagram]

I was deep in thought about the menial pressure of such pleasantries when I smelled what I believed to be gasoline. "It's nothing," I kept telling myself. "You're lying to yourself," the back of my mind would snap back. 

There was a young boy sitting behind me, maybe 8 or 9 years old, and he smelled something too. "It smells like smoke!" he kept repeating, loudly. "Mom, do you smell it?"


Out came the safety manual. Cover nose with mask, slip elastic over head, pull plastic strips in front. Help yourself before helping children. It looks like that little paranoid boy is screwed. "Mom, do you smell the smoke?" he said again.

Shut. Up.

Maybe my fear of flying is a bit irrational. I fly all the time, and one time, it was scary, but otherwise I've always been okay. Plus, I've been driving for years, and my chances of being killed in a car crash are much higher: 1 in 98 per lifetime for cars (this doesn't even include travel by NYC taxi and my old man-ish driving) and a cool 1 in 7178 for airplanes.

So why such fear? As the plane began to take off, with the little boy still chirping about smelling smoke, I looked at the wing and the various engines or whatever those components are that were spinning around and I realized, it's because I have no idea how a plane actually works. Seriously. How does it work?  I can't wrap my head around the fact that it is mechanically possible to propel thousands of pounds of people, pets, and luggage, 3000 feet into the air for hours at a time. I just can not compute this.

As my mind began to numb with thoughts of mechanical engineering and the NyQuil I had taken (go read Cat Marnell before judging me), the movie "Pitch Perfect" began to play. There's an awesome line when the character "Fat Amy," played by Rebel Wilson, walks up to a couple of the poorly dressed male characters and says, "what are you two talking about, dressing for comfort?" and I laughed my sleep-aid fueled ass off because I too, was dressed for comfort.

Traveling in Style

Surprise! I do not travel in style. Especially for a red-eye flight when I know I need to get some sleep and will be situationally uncomfortable for 5 hours. This is me before heading to the airport:

See? If I were a celebrity and was photographed at the airport, TMZ or Us Weekly or whoever, would look that paparazzo in the eye and ask point blank why he or she was trying to sell them a photo of a homeless man or Mary Kate Olsen circa 2005.

Nevertheless, there is method to this madness. It may not look thoughtful, but this is thoughtful dressing at its finest, and there are ways to do it much better than I have, and actually look good doing it.

Let's start with wearing socks and comfortable slip on shoes. These shoes are easy to slip on and off when going through security and once on the plane. Wear them with socks for warmth. You don't have to nerd out and wear socks right away: just slip a pair in your purse for the flight and thank me later.

Gone are the days of complementary blankets, and as my mother would say, "it's colder than a witch's tit" in flight. Ergo, warm sweaters are also key. 

Comfortable pants. Forget tight pants or skinny jeans. Why would you do that to yourself? Wear pants that could be pajamas, but aren't. But could be.

A purse large enough to fit a laptop. Taking your laptop out of your carry on suitcase in airport security is a pain in the ass, and so is getting it out of that suitcase in overhead storage once on the flight. This way, you can slip it out and back in for security, and have easy access to it on the plane. And god willing, your flight has wifi.

Air travel can be tedious and terrible, so if there are ways in which we can make the experience more comfortable or convenient for ourselves, we might as well. 

Dress for comfort (and style, if you wish), breeze through security, know the emergency procedures, and have a safe flight!
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  1. I am absolutely terrified of flying too, but have to do it quite often. I think it gets worse as I get older because I realize I have more and more to lose and finally understand the concept of it all. It's scary!!

    Love your homeless man/Olsen twin ensemble. Perfect for travel!


  2. I haven't flown in a long time. I used to love flying, but now they spend so much money and time invading everyone's privacy that they don't have enough money to pay decent money for airplane maintenance and more rested pilots. Maybe it's because I'm older too. I think the big airliners are still safer than the little planes though. I know there are tens of thousands of flights but the ones like the one where we lost Jenni Rivera make me more apprehensive. It's always especially unnerving if something doesn't feel, sound or smell right. Glad you got back and did the post. The ASOS pants/trousers/pajamas have a very pretty pattern.

  3. As a flight attendant I can assure you all you were experiencing is perfectly normal, as for the fuel smell especially this time of year it's most likely the de-icing fluid that sometimes goes thru the airconditioning/heat. Anyhow, comfortable style is my usual when travelling as a passenger. Your style was perfect for a red-eye:)

  4. I havw only been a plane a couple of times and was not really scared. I myself was more anxious and excited (keep in mind I want to go bungee jumping and skydiving) about being up so high in the air. I love your outfit btw. Comfy and cozy is most definitely the bwst way to go when flying.


  5. I'm kinda glad they aren't giving out those nasty blankets any more, I never believed that they used to wash them...

  6. I have a fear of flying as well, but always find that a few shots of whiskey manages to ease the nerves.

  7. FINALLY, someone who understands!!!
    I blogged about it a couple weeks ago: the fear, the rituals, the outfit. There's a book that really helped me, but I'm not sure if you understand French... If not, the Jenna Marbles in itself should be worth the click! http://blog.helloelo.com/2012/12/look-mode-up-in-the-air/

  8. Love those Joie Mariner Pants! Great suggestions for comfortable airport wear.

    1. Exactly your correct, that is an informal wear at all time. You can wear it any relax occation such as wild life, hiking and camping.