Chances Of Dying Are Something Percent

My mother scares me when she drives. She drives like a frightened foreign woman from a country where men subdue women, and her nervousness makes me nervous.

Where we are now is heading north on Manheim Road in her tinfoil-on-wheels Hyundai. Where we are going is O’Hare International Airport.

Hashtag ORD.

I have not flown in 18 years, and all I can think about are television images of commercial airline wreckage scattered across fields like tornado debris.

When I tell people when it was the last time I boarded an airplane, they all respond the same. They all say, “Oh, Before 9/11.” Every time. Verbatim.

“Yes,” I say. “I not my head and agree and repeat, “Before 9/11.”

What this means for me is I have no idea. At least not yet I don’t, but I will soon enough.

Hashtag TSA employee.

Sitting in the passenger seat as my frantic mother maneuvers us through Friday morning traffic to one of the busiest airports ever known to God, I remind myself that the statistical likelihood of us dying on the way to the airport is greater than that of me plummeting to the earth in a steel fuselage at terminal velocity.

My mother driving the car, this chance increases exponentially.

What this thought does for me is substitute my fear from my near-future predicament (flying) to my current predicament (driving).

Hashtag transference.

The anticipation-of-death-is-worse-than-death-itself sensation that I feel in my guts as we inch our way toward the American Airlines Departures gate tells me that the Lorazepam I took at breakfast earlier this morning has yet to kick in.

Hashtag prescription sedative.

Trying to think about something else, George Clooney comes to mind. George and that warm-hearted, meet-cute movie he did where he was flying all over the country firing people from their miserable jobs.

Hashtag Up In The Air.

Great movie. That will be me in a few hours: Up in the air.

The movie opens with George Clooney packing to go on one of his trips. George is getting ready to fly somewhere and relieve some poor bastard of his or her source of income.

This opening scene plays with a voice-over of George’s smooth, baritone voice explaining his lifestyle as compared to the packing technique of his carry-on luggage.

Clever, George. Very clever.

As a psychological parlor trick, I tell myself that when I am up in the air and images of black smoke or detached emergency-exit doors or descended oxygen masks come to mind, I will think of George Clooney.

I tell myself, when I begin to play hypothetical scenarios of passengers stampeding down the narrow aisle in a frenzy of panic, when my sweating palms are gripping the armrests because I can fathom nothing but pandemonium in a pressurized steel tube at 35,000 feet, I will think of George Clooney.

I will visualize George in his little apartment, packing his little carry on luggage-on-wheels. I will see him look up from the simple preparation he has done a thousand times before and smirk at me and say, “It ain’t nothing.”

I will listen to the sound of George’s voice, and I will be calm. Up in the air, everything will be as right as rain.

Hashtag self-delusional.


Author: Joe Stallone

Fiction Writer

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