When I was a teenager, I flew to London with a cold. Which was OK. Until I quickly boarded a second plane to Edinburgh and the swift changes in pressure caused my eardrums to swell to the point of deafness. Quoth the emergency room doctor hours after landing: "You'd probably be in less pain if your eardrum popped a little". Wonderful.
For two days, I curled up in a friend's apartment, my head throbbing in the dark, thinking of how I'd always wanted to move to Scotland anyway. Maybe I could just stay! I could live under my friend's kitchen table and eat scraps of toast and Irn-Bru and beer. No good? OK then, I could take a boat home. Or drive. I'd put the car on a barge between Russia and Alaska and call it a day.
No matter what, I would not be getting on a plane. I knew the pain would eventually subside. But this extra cochlear kick was all I needed to solidify my fear of flying. Now I could put aside all mental hysterics, all wimpy reasoning, and blame my nerves on a concrete problem: I had sensitive ear issues.
It was a perverse relief. I have never been frightened of plane explosions. Air travel is the safest form of travel aside from walking; even then, the chances of being hit by a public bus at 30,000 feet are remarkably slim. I also have no problem with confined spaces. Or heights. What I am afraid of is speed. I have a visceral distaste for rollercoasters for the same reason. If you'd like to see me vibrate with petrifaction, put me on a queue for one.
By the time a flight takes off, I have already spent minutes jockeying with a stranger for the armrest so that I might grip it for dear life during the ascent. Yet when I confess my fear of flying to others, I am generally met with assurances about said flight's limited duration. I am forced to respond: but we have to take off, right? Just checking.
Now I have my ears. Narrow passage ways, you see? It's a medical problem, not a psychological one. Let's just drive around the world instead, shall we?
Sloane Crosley is the author of 'How Did You Get This Number' (Portobello Books)