Let’s just add a maniac for good measure

Well, this story struck me deep in the cockles of my fear zone.

ABC News, along with nearly every news outlet around this spinning globe of ours, reported earlier this week that a United Airlines flight headed to Denver was turned around back to Washington, D.C., after a passenger reportedly got violent with crew members, ran toward the cockpit and had to be restrained by passengers as he was saying “jihad” a couple times.

Long story short, the man was indeed succesfully detained by passengers until the plane landed and authorities took him to a hospital for mental evaluation. U.S. officials said the man did not appear to have any ties to terror, but that didn’t make what he did anything less terrifying to those on board.

Or to this person, sitting squarely on land and simply reading about this little adventure from afar.

You see, if there’s one harrowing nightmare that dwells in my mind, it has to do with air travel. Not the actual flying part, mind you. No, I like everything about that, from the ethereal rush of the plane hurtling down the runway, to the nose of the vessel rising up to lift you to the heavens, to that little rush I always enjoy when I can feel the wheels touching down at arrival.

It’s everything else that frightens me.

For starters, I feel my anxiety rise in the boarding area. It’s not that I’m doing recon on the area looking for potential terrorists, as much as I’m scouting out who is coughing, blowing their noses or generally looking ill. We’re all about to embark on a voyage together, after all, and it’s a voyage that requires a group of strangers to sit in an enclosed space for an extended period of time as bacteria and general grossness fills the limited air.

While I’m stressing over that, I usually catch myself checking out people’s shoes. You see, since the extra safety precautions have taken place at airports since 9/11, and passengers have had to take off their shows at security screenings, I’ve noticed more and more loafers on the feet of travelers. That’s smart, in that it is much easier to take off your shoes if you don’t have to worry about laces or straps. However, it increases the possibility that these people can now much more easily take off their shoes once they get on the plane.

Again. Small, confined space. Less air for foot funk to move away from my face.

More fear follows as the passengers begin milling about as the plane is set to board. You can see them putting away their laptops, tablets and magazines as soon as the flight crew makes their way past the gate and on to the plane, and the tinny voice comes over the speakers announcing who will be boarding first. My fear is two-fold: First, I worry that I won’t be able to understand the voice well enough to board when it’s my turn; and, second, the massive throng of people eager to get on the disease box as soon as possible could start a stampede.

I’m in my mid-40s now. I don’t stampede.

And, of course, a special kind of anxiety envelops my brain as I’m making my way down the aisle to get to my seat. Who will be sitting next to me? Will there be room in the overhead compartment for my bag? Is there easy access to get to the restroom in a hurry?

Again. I’m in my mid-forties now. That is something to heavily consider.

We’re talking about a whole lot of trepidation on my part when it comes to flying, and we haven’t even touched on the food that is or isn’t being served, the extra fees that came with me having the audacity to pack a bag for my trip and the inevitability that I will not be asked by the crew to come up and take the wheel for a little bit, even though I still hold on to hope that it will one day happen.

Then you’re going to throw in a madman fighting with flight attendants and charging the cockpit while talking about “jihadists in the cargo hold,” as one witness said? What do you think that would do to the old blood pressure if you were sitting on that flight? What do you think you’d want to do to that 3-year-old behind you who has been kicking your seat to the tune of the Barney theme song since you found your seat?

It’s a good thing they still serve alcohol on flights.