Back in the 1960s, in late June, my parents secretly plotted to whisk me off to summer camp.
Naturally, I was the last person to know about my being shipped to some remote, woody area in Wisconsin where kiddos slapped their arms and legs, trying to squash mosquitoes. This didn't sound thrilling at all to me. I could do that just as well here in my hometown of Winfield.
I remember how I pleaded with my parents not to let me go to a place called Eagle River, Wisconsin. Mom and dad informed me that Wisconsin was pretty and that I'd be mingling with other kids.
I was terribly shy and afraid of leaving home. What if for some reason I'd never make it back to my "comfort zone?"
We arrived at the Wichita airport, and I cried as an attendant handed me my ticket. Mom, dad and I kissed goodbye. I boarded a plane that looked safe enough for sky travel.
Once up in the air, the plane would bob up and down, zig-zag and dip so fast that I almost lost my lunch.
Several kids actually did.
Either the pilot didn't have much experience, or was dealing with bad currents, or might have had a stiff cocktail prior to sitting in the pilot's seat, or was toying with the passengers and crew.
The passengers were like me, mainly young boys and girls heading for camp themselves.
What defeated the trip even more was the rodeo scene on the walls of the plane, all done in bright red. When the plane shifted, the rodeo came alive with bucking broncos, cowboys barely holding on and other agonizing motions.
The poor girl in the seat next to mine forgot to take a Dramamine 24 hours before take-off. It was nearly 30 minutes into the flight when she threw up on my travel case and in my lap.
As if that was a cue, some kids became really sick and a few put large paper bags over their heads as a joke.
I remember how shaky my legs reacted as I disembarked the plane in Wisconsin. A pounding headache tormented my temples for what felt like hours. I swore to never again fly Frontier.
After that experience, I tried to enjoy a ride on Continental. I sat by a man who looked truly travel savvy. I had my guitar with me, and a stewardess grabbed it, informing me that I couldn't carry it onboard with me.
I thought she was trying to steal my guitar. I yanked it back into my arms, and she, in her stubbornness, fought against me.
It was a struggle of the fittest until that man sitting next to me said:
"It's OK. She's just going to take it and put it underneath the plane where everyone's luggage is for the entire trip. So, you can let go now."
I looked at both of them in a distrustful way, then gradually allowed the stewardess to claim the prize. She rolled her eyes and walked away down the aisle, my guitar swinging in her hand. I thought I had overheard her say under her breath:
I shot her one final snotty remark:
"If anything happens to my guitar, I'll report you to the sky patrol!"
That only brought on chuckles from her and passengers sitting close by. I had meant to say "authorities," but I was just a young girl who couldn't remember what word made better sense coming from my mouth.
Much later, while on vacation with my family in Wyoming, we came upon a guy who gave helicopter rides. Up close, the whirly-bird seemed like a giant dragonfly or monstrous grasshopper. It was sort of mesmerizing and impressive, yet I was timid to climb aboard despite encouraging comments from my parents:
"Come on, Carol Ann. It'll be fun. Go on now and get in."
They pushed my back gently, and I did get in.
The blades started pumping up wind steam. Wind kicked up circular dust and dirt. The noise was quite deafening.
Up with the clouds, I felt light as a feather without any solid protection shielding me from taking a tumble in the air. This ride was totally unlike being on a plane.
When the pilot tilted and swerved the helicopter to the right, I became "Charlie McCarthy," the famous dummy owned by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. My head rose up and back down like Charlie's and I'd yell for my life:
"Whoa! … What's that down there? Are those cows? Quick, pull me back up!"
After the pilot brought the helicopter back to a fairly normal course, I was still slightly terrified.
Is it so surprising that I hated to fly? In truth, I did not favor a helicopter ride or any other ride in the heavens. Little kids might have screamed for joy in the wide blue yonder. Not me. I'd just scream and clutch my seat, petrified and semi-frozen in space.
What horrors await me next in my senior years? I know one thing: I won't be flying the friendly (or not so friendly) skies anytime in the near future unless absolutely forced into the cargo area.
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