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Fear Of Flying And Other Tales

Author: Bill Barnett. Category: News Column - Phuket Gazette. Posted: 5th Apr 2014

The thought of dying is not one of the most pleasant ideas that pops into our collective imaginations from time to time. As I write this, it's only one day after the Malaysian PM delivered an ominous announcement on the finality of flight MH370.

Writing this, my keystrokes are punctuated by the roar of jet engines that have hit cruising altitude en route to Danang, Vietnam. What was that immortal line which Dirty Harry said, "Do I feel lucky? Well, do you punk?" In this case, luck means getting back on firm ground, although anyone who has experienced a Vietnamese taxi driver with more horsepower than common sense might book the next flight out.

Over the past 17 days, both the international media and local table talk has been honed in on what is shaping up to be tragic event. With these conversations going "glocal", "viral" and all the rest, it's hard to imagine what we will talk about when it is finally over.

Within my circle of friends and business contacts, the subject line about fear of flying has been a recurring theme as of late. Trading opinions of which airline is the safest (statistically, it's Qantas) or the concept of perhaps taking a staycation versus bundling up the wife and kids into a plane for an overseas Songkran holiday.

It's been said that what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger - but let's leave that for the self-help circuit and greeting cards. The truth remains that danger does lurk in many unexpected places but fixating on the possibility of an untimely demise, and the many possible scenarios of how it could play out, will only drive you around the bend.

Stunning view? Sure... as long as the plane doesn't take a nosedive. Photo: Panoramas You think you're safer on the ground? Try driving in Vietnam, you might change your mind. We live, as I have said before, in a golden age of travel. Flying around has never been cheaper and easier. It takes less time to fly to a foreign country from Phuket than to drive from the Sarasin Bridge to Cape Promthep during rush hour. This is not meant to stimulate readers to head to the airport, as last year over five million passengers had a similar idea.

Indeed death and taxes are with us always, hovering above us like agents of doom. Those poor souls leading lives of quiet desperation over conspiracy theories have been known to wrap their heads in tin foil to ward off invisible electronic waves.

So what's the point here? Well the concept of fear, be it the fear of flying, trying something new, embarking on a brave new business concept or just talking to a stranger - is one we shouldn't worry about. This is simply because in the end, we will all be dead anyway. But in the interim period - in this glorious up-and-down life we lead - there are better things to think about instead of the last page of an engrossing novel.

Punch the ticket and take the ride, I say. Tears will come soon enough but in the meantime why be possessed by the endless list of what could go wrong.

Now, when I fly, looking out the window to the horizon spotted with clouds and the ant-like movement of cars thousands of feet below, the question inevitably comes to mind, "What if the plane suddenly takes a nosedive?" Yes, you see, despite my public optimism, I am just like all of you, dancing between the tragic and magic moments of a life lived 365 days a year.

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