I have been suffering from various phobias all my life long. Who hasn’t? Go check this very interesting website and I am pretty sure you’ll be very surprised how phobic one can be. Even you, my very rational friends!

Last Friday, we flew to Bilbao. We had decided to spend four days in the Spanish Basque Country before Popeye would start a very long week of meetings and seminars in Spain. I had never been to the Spanish part of the Basque Country even though my grandmother on my father’s side was a native of Biarritz and very proud of being Basque.

(By the way, she was called Gaxuxa (Ga-tchu-tcha) which means Gracieuse in French - Graceful in English. And she was a very graceful lady, so I was told since she died when I was a wee baby.)

Well back to phobia!

Popeye had managed to get a much better seat than me... probably because he’s such a frequent traveller. Since he’s very sweet and nice, we swapped our seat reservations which meant that I’d fly to Bilbao with a lot of room for my legs! First row of seats and on the aisle... My dream!

The plane filled up quite fast especially since most of the passengers were Chinese on their European tour. But the front window seat was empty and I kept hoping Popeye would be able to join me for the flight.

Flying is definitely not one of my phobias. It’s just nice to fly close to my husband, I guess.

Everybody was already on board and getting ready for the flight.

It was then one last passenger came aboard. One young woman. The purser was obviously waiting for her. The minute she set foot on the plane, she was taken to the cockpit where she spent quite a few minutes talking to the pilots, which is a very amazing thing to do nowadays.

Then the flight attendant took her by the arm and very sweetly led her to the empty seat by the window. So much for traveling with Popeye. Oh well! Then I overheard a few extremely comforting words that were surprising enough to get me to stare at the girl.

She was crying her heart out.

The flight attendant looked at me and gave me a very weird smile... Like... “You, with the short white hair, you look happy and energetic. Please help me!”

I received her message loud and clear. I turned to the girl and I grinned from ear to ear. The message had to be even more clear so I touched her hand ever so lightly and was rewarded by streams of tears.

She managed to mumble a few words: “I am so scared. I hate flying.”

Great... The plane started to taxi and the hostess went through the usual procedures.

The girl looked at me. “I hate takeoff and I do hate landing too. I let the aircrew know about my problem before departure. But I’ll be fine during the flight. You’ll see,” she said while she was shedding more tears than I ever do in one year!

I was flabbergasted but what could I do? I grabbed firmly her hand and started talking to her. Asking questions about her job and her life... Anything that could get her mind away from takeoff which was getting dangerously closer and closer... The flight attendant was checking on her as much as she could... Then she realized I was taking over and that everything would be fine... hopefully!

Hopefully... because none of us knew whether or not this phobia would find another wilder expression or not or would be dissolved in tears.

I couldn’t help thinking about my phobia of boating which would send me overboard rather that stay (safely) in the boat whenever the sea would get rough...

So I kept holding her hand as tight as I could and I tried soothing her until the plane finally took off... through æons of time... seems like.

She then blew her nose and smiled at me, not quite relaxed but feeling much better obviously...

“See, once takeoff is over, I feel fine. And you have been very helpful. Usually people look at me as if I am crazy. Actually they even avoid looking at me. Thank you so much for taking care of me.”

She then went on telling me that she flies a lot for her job and she goes all over the world and she doesn’t mind long, very long flights which I hate by the way.

She just suffers from this phobia about takeoff and landing.

She once considered quitting her job and flying but then she realized that she’d never get back on a plane, ever...

I thought that she was very brave and I told her so.

I did keep avoiding boats for so many years... Until Popeye found a way to get (and keep) me on board... Taking pictures, that is.

We had a very nice chat while flying over France and part of the Atlantic Ocean, I imagine! The purser told her that Air France held seminars for people like her and she insisted that she’d try to register to one of those classes.

And then came the announcement: “We’ll be shortly landing in Bilbao...”

The crazy scared look came back so did the tears but so much less...

Probably because we had been talking about her life in Santander where she lives with her mom and brother and dog in a house by the sea and I had been telling her about my life in Brittany which was so similar to hers, walking her dog on the beach in all weathers. (I do walk my camera in all weathers!)

So we talked about her walks on the beach with her Bobo all the while the plane was going down towards Bilbao... At landing though, she instinctively stretched out her legs as if she were slamming on the brakes, which I pointed out to her!

And believe it or not, she was laughing while the plane taxied down along the runway.

Then she looked at me then at her wrist quite laden with all sorts of bangles, most of them looking like “grigris”... (I know because I used to wear all sort of charms during the cancer years... most of them given to me by friends.)

She removed one of them, a green plastic bracelet with words written on it.

“It’s from Lourdes,” she said. “I know it will protect you.”

Well, I am not too keen on religious charms but she was such a sweet person that I thanked her profusely. We kissed before parting.

A chauffeur was waiting for her to drive her back home.

And I had to wait for Popeye who had spent the whole flight stuck on a very uncomfortable seat at the rear of the plane. The man loves me, I know.

“En la Gruta Bendita he rezado por ti... ♡LOURDES♡” the bracelet says. (In the Blessed Grotto, I prayed for you...)

I will keep this bracelet with gratitude. 

This young woman parted with this obviously dear talisman just because I smiled at her and tried to soothe her fears on account of my own phobias.

Being phobic can help after all! Just kidding!

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Nancy said...

This was a very touching story; I'm sure that woman will never forget your kindness!

Mammodouy's Stories said...

Thank you... But I only wish she'll remember she was laughing while the plane was landing in Bilbao! :)

Myrna said...

Taking off and landing scare me, too. What assures me is telling myself over and over again that the pilot wants to do these things safely even more than I do! How lovely for her that you were in the seat beside her, and that your chat could help not only to calm her, but to see the humor of the situation!