Jewish Journal

Pa Pa Pa Poker Face

by Chava Tombosky

March 21, 2011 | 8:39 pm

This year I spent my birthday in the airport. I had arrived at the gate one whole hour early.  Lucky for me I married a man who has an internal clock that keeps me on time despite my reckless ability to manage my schedule.  We decided to take a cab with a newfound friend and when we arrived at the airport, our friend invited us to spend the extra hour in the admiral club. The admiral club is a place that strategically places prettier chairs near tinted windows, which tricks you into believing you are not about to fly in the sky forty thousand feet above land. They also serve free coffee- and have showers incase you get sweaty during security check. I mean who doesn’t love free juice?  So off to the admiral club we went.

We were having so much fun getting to know our new friend, that by the time we arrived at the gate, the plane had taken off. We are probably the only people in the history of the world who have managed to arrive an hour early to the airport only to miss our flight. When you miss your flight, you immediately assume that you missed the bad plane- you know the one that was sure to crash. Of course being that I am superstitious and concerned that G-d may not find me the most acceptable human being, I toyed with the idea that the plane we were now scheduled to get on four hours later would be the one scheduled to crash. Last year I spent my birthday witnessing death, so I just assumed this year I might spend it dying.

I have had a serious fear of flying ever since that one time when at the beginning of take-off as we reached 13,000 feet, the plane took a major nose dive and we fell several thousand feet, while my husband looked up at the ceiling and mockingly said “Watch out for oxygen masks!” The plane leveled off and eventually the pilot got on the speaker telling us he was sorry for the “dip” (more like a pummel) but that he was avoiding a collision with another plane that did not come up on the radar. Comforting, I know. 

Meanwhile the rest of the passengers sat glaring at my husband for joking about non-existent oxygen masks. He of course claimed he just got excited about pulling on the strings on either side of those yellow cups.

Last year I was invited to a fundraiser that had featured a hypnotist. I had a few shots of tequila, the room was really dark, and before I knew what was happening my friend Nomi shoved me on the volunteer panel to be hypnotized. I had never been hypnotized before, and I was a little too tipsy to be concerned about it. Little did I know that I would be dancing a Lady Gaga number, speaking in some made up Martian language, and screaming to the hypnotist to give me back my red scarf that had been my grandma’s heirloom.

Once again, this was not funny. Well it was to everyone else, but not to me. (Okay it was a little funny to me- but honestly; I don’t remember any of it, so how funny could have been already?)  At the end of the show, because of course I was the best thing that could have happened to this hypnotist, I was feeling really overwhelmed and pretty upset- mostly over the scarf. In an effort to revive me back into a good place, the hypnotist agreed to hypnotize me one more time, but this time I could choose to get over any fear that I wanted. I of course asked him to help me get over my fear of flying. 

After worrying about getting on the next scheduled flight, I decided to reach into my psyche and practice my hypnotic trance. I closed my eyes and began to recollect my thoughts. I remembered the last essay I wrote about having some perspective and trying to see everything for the good, even if it meant needing a good kick in the pants at a fundraiser nightclub, a few of shots of tequila and months of hindsight.  Who knows, maybe this was the best thing that could have happened, because we got four extra hours in the admiral club-, which of course meant more free juice.  We even got a great friendship out of it, and spent the next four hours bonding with someone we never would have gotten to know if not for missing our flight.

I even found out that our new seats on the “non-doomed flight” were actually closer to the front, which is where I prefer to sit, because if I do go down, I’d like to be the first one with the passengers from first class to die. That way if they try pulling their “first class” status on me when we get to heaven I have leverage. Hey they paid more for their seats, yet still managed to die first- so who’s the winner now? (I also believe that being in the back is where all the bad people sit.) So when I got bumped up to the head of the plane on the second flight, I had a good feeling that this was going to be the best birthday flight EVER!

I have flown several times since my hypnotic episode, and can honestly say that I have flown like a total champ. There were no clammy hands, no sweating buckets, no running to the lavatory- I was cool as a cucumber and completely at ease. That was, until we boarded this particular flight.

Within minutes of getting settled into our seats, row 14, the Pilot came over to us and said, “In the event of an emergency I just want to confirm that you and your husband are willing to open the emergency door that you are seated next to and help everyone off the plane first. In other words you are willing to board the plane last.” (Ya I got that.) 

Uh- hello, do I look capable of being calm in the event of an emergency? And speaking of emergency, now I am completely convinced that I have missed my plane for the very purpose of sitting on this plane, which is the doomed flight that God has clearly perfectly orchestrated for my husband, the Superhero to help everyone off the burning airline. NO hypnotist was gonna help me now.

Despite the flight being smooth, and the fact that I was sitting on the wing of the plane giving me the choicest air flight equilibrium, meaning the least amount of turbulence- I still couldn’t calm down at all. I became mildly panicky- okay I was sweating, and began to fantasize about that freakin shower in the admiral club.  I couldn’t get comfortable. All I kept thinking about was how hard it might be to open that exit door. I couldn’t stop staring at the aluminum handle as the condensation from outside started dripping all over my lap.  I could feel the cold wind coming in through the cracks and believed that going down was pretty much inevitable. My body shook in a cold sweat as the tiny air holes from that fan above my seat blazed passed my face and through my bones the same time cold clouds squeezed their way through the emergency exit door. I was probably hallucinating with fever. They didn’t even give me a blanket. I am going to save everyone when we go down- and I can’t even get a pillow- or working headphones? And where’s my kosher meal? I know airlines stopped serving them, but they can’t get one lousy bagel for the emergency crew?

I was sitting in important prime real estate, told I would have to be on call in the event of a crash, and feeling very vulnerable, when the pilot got on the PA threatening several more lavatory runs.  No hypnotist could possibly prepare me for what I was about to hear. “Brace yourselves, there will be ALOT of turbulence, please stay in your seats. Do NOT get up!” The pilot did not make it sound calm and cool and collective and rational. He sounded panicked. Do you know what it’s like flying with a pilot who is more paranoid than Charlie Sheen? The seat belt sign kept beeping and beeping reminding me of that other “B” word we can’t say out loud on flights anymore. (Bomb) Oh stop- don’t say it!  I settled into my seat like a wild animal settles into hunger and tried my best not to utter the “B” word just in retribution- but then I remembered my Lady Gaga abilities and Poker faced it.

Finally after bracing myself for the worst crash in the history of all plane rides, the turbulence ended up being no more rocky than the “It’s a Small World” boat ride.  After twelve hours of traveling, we had finally landed safely. I went home and took two showers, and remembered that on this birthday I learned the greatest lesson of all- next time if I ever miss a plane because I want free juice, I’d better be prepared to pack myself a hypnotist, put on a Lady Gaga costume and learn how to work the emergency exit handle. More importantly, I have promised to spend this year not imagining myself as some tragic magnet that God strategically places in the event of emergencies- but rather the girl that gets bumped to another flight that gives her more legroom with a better view. Still, I wouldn’t mind a blanket in the event of an emerging unexpected circumstance.

Tracker Pixel for Entry


View our privacy policy and terms of service.




My Big Fat Jewish life blog is featured in The Huffington Post and The Algemeiner Journal as well as The Jewish Journal. Chava has also written for Farbrengen Magazine, Soul...

Read more.