Posted by: laughs4dads | July 5, 2010

Musings on Mortality

As you read this, I’m in San Francisco on vacation. Well I’m visiting my daughter, Casey, who’s here for the summer. But what you need to know is that we flew out here.

I’m not particularly afraid to fly. There’s almost nothing that I like about the whole process, though, and I tend to be grumpy (okay–grumpier) from the moment we get to the airport until we arrive, bags in hand, at a hotel room. I consider every step along the way to be an annoyance, a testament to incompetence, a rip-off, or some combination of the three.

But there have been only two times in my life when I’ve been afraid to fly: in the months immediately following 9/11, and in the years immediately following the birth of my daughter.

The reason for my fears after 9/11 is obvious: I’m insecure flying without nail clippers. But why, you might ask, did my daughter’s arrival make me afraid to depart via airplane?

Simple: suddenly my mortality mattered.

You can spew all the statistics you want about air travel being safer than driving, but the fact of the matter is, if I hit something on the New Jersey Turnpike I’m not also going to fall several thousand feet and go up in a ball of flames. Additionally, the turnpike has better snacks.

But while the prospect of plummeting to my death had never been an attractive one, after Casey’s birth, it suddenly mattered. I don’t mean to say I had nothing to live for before that (after all, we still had Orange Julius stands), or that my wife wouldn’t have been upset at my sudden demise. It was just that the thought of Casey not having a dad, or my not seeing her grow up, was too devastating to even contemplate.

And so every plane became a deathtrap.

I remember one time, on the morning of a business trip to Detroit, I became so certain that my plane was going to go down that I faked an illness and called a colleague to go in my place. Yes, that’s right, I condemned a man to death. And to Detroit. I then spent the day watching TV, waiting for the inevitable news bulletin that, thankfully, never came. Because I would have felt guilty.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped being afraid to fly and reverted to my usual, grumpy self. I’m not sure when it happened exactly, or why. I suppose it had something to do with Casey reaching her teenaged years, so I could kind of see how she was turning out. Or maybe I felt she had already grown up with a father.

But I’d still prefer to drive.

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