How I Almost Died

by Holly on March 14, 2011

in story,travel

I’ve taken a lot of plane rides in my life.

Because I have the odd luck bestowed upon us middle children (see middle child syndrome), many of these flights have been less than pleasant due to rather unique circumstances.

One time I sat between two Polish couples on a flight from London to Chicago. The couple to my left argued quite loudly in what I can only guess was Polish, leading the husband to disappear for two hours on the trans-Atlantic flight while the wife bawled. Awkward. Meanwhile, the husband of the couple to my right read an extremely racy women’s magazine while his wife hacked, gargled and coughed directly in my face, leading me to believe I had caught some fatal Polish virus for several months after.

Although I have a knack for snagging window seats, they simply aren’t quite as fun when the couple next to you is touching each other inappropriately on the flight. Again, awkward.

Sitting next to kids when their parent is in the row ahead or behind you is the worst. The absolute worst. You may end up playing travel-sized Connect 4 for three straight hours and feeding the 5-year-old girl her snack. And juice box. And lyrics to the Barney theme song.

On my flight home from Austin however, my seatmates were just fine.

A 20-something girl with really cute ballet flats to my left; a large 50-something man taking up half my seat on my right. Not bad. Not stellar.

As the flight took off from Dallas, we were well aware we’d be flying into some nasty weather in Chicago. I closed my eyes, illegally put on my Florence + the Machine CD (what’s with no electronic devices being used during takeoff anyways?) and prepared to sleep the entire way to Chicago.

It worked for about an hour.

Then the plane hit some turbulence.

Nothing to worry about Holly; you’ve had this happen plenty of times!

The seatbelt sign went on. Routine.

I rested my head back again only to feel an odd sensation rising up inside of me. Suddenly, I was riding on a towering rollercoaster and heading down that first huge hill and…shit!

We just plummeted 100 feet midair.

I clutched the two arm rests, looked to my left, looked to my right and peed my pants just a bit. Just a teeny little bit.

Oh. My. God. I am going to end up like Jack on LOST. No wait, Kate. Well, who will be my Jack? I did see that one cute guy earlier…hmmm…where is he again? Wait. It doesn’t even matter, because we are crashing and will be eaten by the smoke monster before we know it.

The plane lurched left. Then it lurched right.

More turbulence.

Another drop.

Prayers were said to my Grandma Nancy above to keep me safe. And to keep my new purse safe.

More turbulence.

More lurching.

This is the end.

This is it.

I am dying in the worst way I can imagine: in a plane crash.

“We’re almost landing. Don’t worry,” said the guy next to me.

Really? Almost landing? Don’t worry? Because I am pretty sure my uterus just came lurching up my throat from the fact we dropped another 100 feet. Now, not only am I going to die, but I’m never going to be able to have kids due to my barren reproductive system that’s no longer in my body!!!

I half-smiled and half-nodded back to him.

I breathed in. I breathed out. I replayed “Dog Days Are Over” because that song makes me happy. I thought of puppies. I thought of ice cream. I thought of how relieved I would be once I landed. I even thought of the fact that if I made it through, it would mean I still have a chance with Jake Gyllenhaal.

A chance is still a chance, right?

I kept breathing.





For 15 more minutes, the plane bumped, jumped, jarred, jerked and tumbled its way through the air.

Then, miracle of all miracles, I saw the ground.

And vowed never to complain about singing Barney songs to a 5-year-old on a plane ever again.


Sana March 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm

So i was flying from Chicago TO the Twin Cities BACK to Baltimore. Thankfully they sweet lady offered me son ginger tea, which I promptly spilled all over her as soon as we hit turbulence.
She wanted to keep in touch via the blog but I never heard back from her. I wonder why.

Jessica March 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm

OMG the same thing happened to me on a flight from Newark to Chicago once. I grabbed the arm of the drunken frat boy next to me. All I could think was I don’t want to die in the arms of a bro because I think that might be the worst way to die (well after a plane crash).

Planes are scary. Why can’t we just aparate like in Harry Potter?

sofia March 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm

how scary! hell, i thought i was going to bust a cap/ have an anxiety attack when my flight just twenty or so hours ago was delayed for three hours… with everyone sitting on the plane, not allowed to get up to use the bathroom… after i ate and drank in excess just three hours before. i then proceeded to feel extremely anxious about the “technical difficulties” the plane was experiencing and thought i was gonna die but had little reason to rationalize that thought.

yeah. point is: your story is way better than mine.

sarah (sarah learns) March 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

ahhh, that sounds AWFUL. i’m a terrible terrible flier already. i hate landing and anytime i hit turbulence i grab the seats and say hail mary’s. i’m glad you survived of course and i hope you never have another awful flight like that ever every again!

hippierunner March 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Glad you made it out of there! I love your writing and this post in particular! :)

lora March 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm

omg i am so happy you are safe and sound!!! Your writing is so good and I felt like I was sitting next to you…btw, i wanna skip school and come in July for sumerfest and black keys. how much are tix? id be coming for a day only. Ah soooo excited.


Stephanie March 14, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Three favorite things about this post:
#1. Dog Days Are Over—still waiting to get sick of it. It’s been 2 months already. Jeez.
#2. Favorite words in this post—“Not bad. Not stellar.” It just sounds like something I would say!
#3. JG-still waiting to get sick of him too. never.

Mary @ Bites and Bliss March 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Ahh, scary!! It’s strange..I actually like turbulance because it shakes things up some (no pun intended)..but you know, it adds something to the ride. If it’s perfectly smooth the whole time, my mind will get bored and I’ll end up getting sick, so turbulance helps. But..when it’s *normal* turbulance…not like that!! That’s just plain scary!

janetha @ meals and moves March 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm

i felt like i was right there with you! good story. glad you are alive. and also, i listen illegally. yep. true story.

marshall says “tell your pal holly i say thanks so much!”

Erica D @ Gratitouille March 15, 2011 at 12:20 am

Aw Holly! I wish I could send you some of my consistently calm plane nerves. I’m very glad you’re alive. And if we had crashed together, I would totally be someone (Hurley?) to your Kate. (Why are there no other good early female characters with that kind of confidence?)

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) March 15, 2011 at 4:58 am

thank god you’re ok. I have been on some doosies, including a 4 seater flying over the amazon rainforest in costa rica and pretty much thought the plane was going down. Life before eyes. Yes.

hugs girl!

Sarah (Running To Slow Things Down) March 15, 2011 at 5:06 am

Oh my word, I would have *died*!! That sounds ridiculously scary.

(p.s. You told this story so hilariously that I practically “died” laughing…haha.)

Lauren March 15, 2011 at 5:37 am

Ahhh, so crazy!!! I can’t imagine how frightening this must have been. So glad you are okay!!! :)

Erica March 15, 2011 at 5:49 am

Turbulence is SO scary…and flying in bad weather…ugh…makes me sick to my tummy! One time, I was flying home from Penn State for break. The Penn State airport is barely the size of a bus terminal. It was snowing…hard. Our ~20 seater plane decided to take off anyways. Just as the tires leave the ground- the stewardess announces this is the pilots first official US Airways flight….I was like…why are you telling us this NOW? How about when we’re safely landed?? So I feel for you ;) PS- LOVE the Lost references

Little Bookworm March 15, 2011 at 6:09 am

Glad you are ok! Sounds like a scary flight!

Amy B @ Second City Randomness March 15, 2011 at 6:12 am

I would be sort of turned off of flying for a while, no lies.

I love characters on a plane. I sat next to two lovely young men in beat-up busch light hats (where I’m from, this may have been their Sunday best) on the way to Vegas and got to hear their conversations about “drankin’ and gettin’ drunk” and how it was too bad Billy Bob couldn’t come along…

Amber March 15, 2011 at 6:22 am

That’s happened to me to but when the merciful ground came into view the pilot decided we couldn’t land so he turned the engines on high, took a 60 degree angle, and we got to try it all over again.

Jecka March 15, 2011 at 6:29 am

I’ve been the 50 year old man in this situation to strangers AND my boyfriend. I’ve experienced some heinous turbulence, dropping hundreds of feet, etc. in my many travels (hell, I’ve been a frequent flyer on Delta and American Airlines since 1987, when I was just shy of 2 years old!). I’ve definitely had to calm people down in these situations!

Susan March 15, 2011 at 7:13 am

I felt fear in my stomach reading this! Glad you made it out of there. Strangely enough, I feel safer in a plane than in a car.

Oh and this is a bit morbid, but I think plane turbulance and the threat of a crash is kind of kick ass when set to Florence + the Machine.

Elizabeth@The Sweet Life March 15, 2011 at 7:25 am

That’s the worst feeling–not knowing when you’re going to land, and searching and searching to see the ground! Glad you’re safe.

Kailey (SnackFace) March 15, 2011 at 8:20 am

Oh my damn! That sounds TERRIFYING! I can’t stand the thought of anything bad happening to my Holly either! AHHH!!!!

We had some extremely bad, stormy turbulence on our way from Italia back to Cincy, and my stomach was in my mouth. Thank god that ended up OK. Just like you.


Madeline - Greens and Jeans March 15, 2011 at 8:24 am

In January I flew from Boston to Philly (that ended up with us going to Pittsburgh because the weather was so bad we couldn’t land) and the turbulence was so bad I held the hand of the guy sitting next to me and cried for the last 30 minutes. Awesome.

Evan Thomas March 15, 2011 at 8:30 am

You’re funny when you almost die; please do it more often. Wait, scratch that.

Kacy March 15, 2011 at 8:38 am

Terrible! I hate landing under normal circumstances. I’m quite sure I would have peed my pants more than just a little.

brandi March 15, 2011 at 8:52 am

Ugh, I hate that! I’ve only been on one flight that had REALLY bad turbulence and I felt the same way – I was sure that this was IT.

So glad the plane landed safely!!

rebecca lustig March 15, 2011 at 9:09 am

my heart started racing as i read this! the worst part of flying, for me, is taking off. i just want to be either on the ground or in the air. none of this inbetween shiz

my little celebration March 15, 2011 at 9:22 am

Extremely well written, my friend. I think I shall consider this your writing assignment #3.

Oh, and I’m glad you’re safe. Like really glad. What would I do without my favorite blog?

Teri [a foodie stays fit] March 15, 2011 at 11:09 am

holy crap. that is terrifying. i’m so glad you didn’t die. because then I couldn’t tell you that I love you even more for singing “dog days” in your head.

have i told you how much i LOVE your new header? it’s a major love.

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey March 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

That is crazy scary! I’m a freak about plane rides home for some reason. Going to a destination isn’t bad because I’m excited about my vacation, but on the way home, I’m sad, depressed, and I pretty much am waiting for my plane to plummet

Katie March 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Yikes! I had a terrifying turbulence experience when I was flying to Florida this past January, so I was reading my book to take my mind off it. Then the 10-year-old boy next to me reached over and turned off my reading light. GRR.

Lauren March 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm

OMG! I would have peed my pants completely and probably started to cry… just saying, you did great!! Way to go on the Florence and the Machine CD, I can’t stop listening to it either :)

Note about the anti-electronics durning take off and landing. My friend works for American Airlines as an engineer and I asked him that same question. He said it’s because the airlines have a fear that the electronic waves can screw up the direction compass thing (he knows the correct term, I don’t) on the planes. If that things gets screwed up, they don’t know where land and water are. They also don’t know where the landing strip is… That sold me :) Turn that Sh*% off!!

Megan (Braise the Roof) March 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Yikes, I hate turbulence like that! I’ve definitely experienced my fair share, too and it’s zero fun. Glad you made it back safe. :) Oh, and I couldn’t help but Google the no electronics at take-off thing: Looks legit to me!

Michelle March 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Ugh, I know exactly how you felt! I’ve been there and it’s awful. I was in a puddle jumper flying from NYC to Burlinton, VT and we felt every bump and dip. When we finally landed, the entire plane started clapping, we were so relieved.

SO glad to hear you weren’t actually hurt!

amanda March 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm

i maybe peed a little for you during while reading. just a teeny tiny bit.

girlfriend, i would have vommed X 10. seriouslyyyyy.

i am happy your jake thoughts helped keep you calm.

Geraldine March 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm

You’ are so funny! There is nothing worse than the lack of control involved in flying. Being at the mercy of a pair of Rolls Royce engines, unpredictable weather and pilots that may or may not be drunk, sleep deprived or incompetent. Glad you got through it!

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