Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East


Last week, a video went viral of a plane crash in Taiwan that killed 32 people. A TransAsia Airways flight could be seen plummeting sideways into a river, clipping its wings on a bridge on the way down.

This is the second plane crash on a TransAsia flight in less than a year. Last July, another catastrophe cost 48 lives during a botched landing.

These seemingly more and more common accidents are making a lot of Americans squeamish about air travel. Throw in the fears of terrorists and you’ve got enough paranoid Americans to put Amtrack back in the forefront for travelers.

Our National fear-fueled climate is what’s to blame for your flying-anxiety; it’s not facts. We all know the unlikelihood of being in a plane crash but yet we think our fears are justified because of what we see and hear on TV.

According to PBS, if you’re traveling in the U.S., you have about a one in 11 million chance of getting into a plane crash. And even if you’re in a plane crash you have about a 95 percent chance of surviving. So why does the threat seem so real?

Fear is all about perception. Rarely does what we are afraid of actually correlate to a real or imminent threat. Most people’s fears are caused by our society, which praises paranoia. The media wants us afraid, and in the age of cell phones we get to see our worst fears coming true.

Seeing a plane crash two inches in front of your eyes – or screen – is much scarier than what you could have even imagined. The video of last week’s TransAsia flight is absolutely terrifying. It’s not some grainy video footage of a plane disappearing. We get to see the last moment that ended dozens of people’s lives.

I’m not laughing off a fear of flying; for some people it’s warranted. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I completely understand fixating your thoughts on a terrible fate and not being able to control it. But I don’t think that most people’s fears are legitimate. It’s like when someone says they’re claustrophobic because their sweater is too tight.

Every time we drive we are literally taking our lives into our own hands; we do it every day. Is it any less dangerous than getting on a plane? No, it is way more dangerous, in fact. But flying just feels scarier.

When you step on a plane, you simply have to forget about the bad things that could possibly happen to you. You do it every time you’re in your car, but it’s easier because you have more practice. If we lived in the days of the Jetsons, we would hop on a moving aircraft without a second thought. Now, we chug $21 worth of Jack Daniel’s in baby bottles to ease our nerves anytime we have to travel.

One time, I sat next to a couple with a small dog on a flight to New York. The wife apologized for her quiet pup and proceeded to split a blue pill in thirds: one piece for the dog, one for her, and one for her husband.

“Damn,” I thought. “I hope that’s people medicine they’re giving the dog and not dog medicine that they’re taking.”

Either way, everyone in the row was sleeping but me. I guess whatever you have to do to make it to your final destination.

It’s funny that hopeful statistics don’t ease our fears. Did you know that you are seven times more likely to get struck by lightning than to get into a plane crash?

(I went to a small high school with only a couple hundred students and two people got struck by lightning. One of them died.I wonder if that makes me more or less likely to be struck by lightning? Did people I know already eat up that terrible fate or is Runnels just a hot bed of electricity and any of us alums could be next?)

You see, fears, by nature, are irrational. That’s why you can’t blame someone when they’re having a panic attack about something that probably can’t or won’t actually hurt them.

For those people who don’t have chronic fears, take comfort in the improbability of your doom, in the air or wherever. But maybe you should have a little more angst when getting into that metal death trap you call a car. We could all use some more cautious fear on the road.




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