Friday, September 29, 2006

Blogging at 25,000 Feet

NOTE: The following journal was composed yesterday while aboard a Dash 8 winging my woeful* way from Montreal to Salluit. I am only in a suitable condition to post it this morning, due to intense pain resulting from the last entry.

8:35 AM

It’s about a 5 and three-quarter hour flight back home. We’re only 40 minutes into the flight, but I’m surrounded by screaming kids and ignorant cows of mothers who refuse to discipline their spawn. The back of my seat is being kicked, the kid is pounding the window, and keeps on screaming “auka” at his mother, which means “no” in Inuttitut. It’s going to be a very long, long flight. I’m going to see if I can change seats, but this is a small plane (27 seats) so no matter where I go I can’t escape the brat behind me.

To compound things, I’ve been up since 4:30 and had little sleep.

What did W.C. Fields say about children?

9:26 AM

Why do I keep hearing warning indicators from the cockpit? I’m a lot paranoid about flying at the best of times, but this is ridiculous. If we make it to LaGrande I predict we’ll be on the ground for quite some time. But at least the airline has a mechanic there.

9:32 AM

We’ve started our descent into LaGrande, the gateway air terminal for the massive James Bay hydro electric. They will let us off the plane for about 20 minutes while we refuel. I also know that the captain likes to smoke. The smoke alarm-like beeps have died down lately.

LaGrande is on the northern edge of Canada’s great boreal forest. The trees – spruce, fir, larch and tamarack – are all stunted, barely reaching 20 feet high although some are hundreds of years old. Another interesting feature is a string bog, basically a small pond with strips of moss growing across it.

10:45 AM

Back in the air again on the way to Puvirnituq. While we were on the ground, I spoke with the pilot concerning the warning beeps coming from the flightdeck. Here’s the story: today we had a very strong tail wind, something around 110 knots. This would have put us in too early at LaGrande. So the crew pulled back on the throttles to such a degree that the airspeed indicator showed a very slow speed that the crew were being told to lower the landing gear, not the usual thing at 25,000 feet.

I watched Criminal Minds this week, and the lead character told one of his team who was displaying signs of nervousness while flying that fear of flying is actually a control issue. Now I usually don’t get my psychotherapy from television, but this makes sense to me. Once on the plane as a passenger, you’re there for the duration, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. For those of us control freaks, this is very difficult to tolerate. I met someone who had the same problem, and he had to fly a couple of times a week as part of his job. His wife convinced him to take flying lessons, and not only did his fear dissipate, but he was able to lease a plane on behalf of his company and fly it around Europe.

My little workarounds for my nervousness such as using a GPS to see where we are, how fast we are going and when we will reach our destination is just a way of trying to impose some control on the uncontrollable.


I broke my tooth. On a croissant. A soft croissant. Now I’ll have to go straightway to the dentist when I get home since I will not be able to eat over the weekend with the tooth like this. I hope he can fit me in.

1:00 PM

After Puvirnituq we’re down to two women, a baby and myself on the plane and should be back in Salluit in about 25 minutes. The clouds are very interesting today – cumulus – instead of the lower layer of stratiform clouds we usually get. I notice the pilot is making an effort to reduce turbulence by flying around the clouds as much as possible. These are the type of clouds we would find in the south of Canada.

1:56 PM

I landed half an hour ago at Salluit airport, but no pickup from the airport. Repeated calls home have gone unanswered. Is this punishment for my spending an extra day in Montreal? I will bum a lift home and call the dentist as soon as I can determine what has happened to my family.

4:57 PM

Intense pain. I was able to see the dentist almost immediately. He first fixed another split tooth I had on the same side, then removed the loose part of the molar which was cloven almost perfectly in half aboard the plane this morning. He then performed some gum surgery to expose enough of the remain tooth beneath the gum line to allow him to rebuild it this coming week. A bloody but relatively painless procedure requiring four stitches. But now the freezing is waning, and one side of my face is a throbbing mass of inflamed neurons firing pain signals en masse. Took a shot of straight vodka (my grandmother's traditional toothache remedy) but found it burned like Hades. I doubt any request to the nursing station for morphine will be acceded to. Lord, I wish I could just sleep this one off.

I'm going to review this post tomorrow morning before shooting it upwards to my blog.

* No alcohol served aboard to settle my nerves.


Blogger Eternally Curious said...

Aaaaggghhhh! Tooth (or mouth) pain...dentists...NO THANK YOU!!!

My fear of dentists and/or mouth work is equivalent to (or even greater than!)your fear of flying Nanuk!

I do hope you feel better soon! I can't believe the dentist would expect you to suffer that excruciating pain for a full week. Oh dear...I'm in pain just thinking of it...

10:22 AM  
Blogger Eternally Curious said...

No lie about the extent of my fear of dentists and the work they do: I'd much rather go through my surgery again than be suffering what you're going through!

10:23 AM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Eternally Curious: Thanks, but the pain has subsided a lot, and I can actually eat something, though I am favouring the other side of my mouth. With dentists I find it is not so much the pain, it is the anticipation of pain which is hardest to deal with.

11:50 AM  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

Poor, poor Nanuk. I'd had that kid behind me. And been on the nasty Dash 8s that bump over every tiny gust of wind. And the cracked tooth, although not all at the same time.

The clouds have been different around here this summer as well. Far more cumulus than normal. Which is nicer to look at, but rather disconcerting.

I don't think my fear of flying is as much about having no control as having no knowledge of what's happening as well as no recourse if something does go wrong. Well, that and the plunge from 30,000 feet only to meet the ground at 500 miles an hour or whatever.

Hope the tooth situation is all fixed up soon and your future flights are easier.

/gets coat, goes to buy vodka to stop thinking about flying.

8:29 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

I flew in a tiny plane from Albuquerque to Clovis. The pilot told us to sit towards the back so he could balance the plane. He wasn’t too happy with me when I asked him if it was ok to move around or if we had to sit really still. I didn’t like the way he was doing his flight computations with a grease pencil on a blank spot on the control panel.

Quit using your teeth to crack the seal bones for the marrow.

10:41 PM  
Blogger merlinprincesse said...

Nice trip, Ulysse! :)

3:14 PM  
Blogger Fuff said...

Poor you. I hope you're feeling better. A soft croissant? You must really be a nervous passenger to clench your teeth so tightly.

8:12 PM  
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3:02 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

It is indeed unfortunate to have a dental problem at a very inappropriate time. I once woke up to a very painful toothache, the kind where someone would really pull his hair off! The next morning, I immediately went to my dentist in Hixson to have my tooth treated.

Anyway, I've already been on a flight a handful of times already but I still have this small fear going on. I guess I'll get over with this after a few more flights. And one of our dentists in Hixson has actually had a patient who came straight from the airport.

2:56 AM  

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