“There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” — Orson Welles.

I don’t fly. For over 50 years I have resisted Frank Sinatra’s entreaties to come fly with him. Fear of going down in flames in a pumpkin field in Kansas is an unrealistic abstraction. Hurtling through space in a metal tube, munching peanuts and drinking bad wine, punctuated with runs to the john to throw up is a frightening reality.

My earliest experience with flight was growing up with scary movies: Two Amelia Earhart bios that ended badly, of course; John Wayne movies with crash landings in the desert or on deserted islands; five people crash-landing in a jungle and being threatened by cannibals.

All of this culminated in suffering through 121 hours of “Lost.”

So what did I do when I had to go serve my country? I joined the Air Force.

I did that to avoid the family tradition of serving in the Navy. Why? I never learned to swim, and my fear of drowning was worse than that of crashing on a deserted island with Rosalind Russell playing Amelia Earhart, or being lunch for cannibals.

When I joined, I made it clear to the recruiting officer that I didn’t want to be a fighter pilot. After staring at me for 10 minutes, he smiled and assured me that there was no chance of that mistake happening.

“We’ll make you a typist. Are you afraid of typewriters?”

I said that would be wonderful, because a party fortune teller had told me I would be writing for a newspaper in Maine, and typing lessons would be valuable.

Of course, there were times I was forced to fly. I sailed to Japan on an Army transport. Leaving Japan two years later, I was given a choice: spend another 18 days on that reconditioned prison ship or take advantage of an offered free trip on a TWA flight home with a two-day stop in Honolulu. Thankfully, it was a dream ride. What was I afraid of all these years, I wondered?

A last minute flight from Hollywood to San Francisco to fill a spot in a TV movie reminded me. It was 48 short minutes of terrible turbulence, luggage and papers flying around, and my seatmate, an elderly priest, gripping his rosary and mumbling prayers. If a priest was scared, what chance did I have?

That was it for me. I spent the next 45 years avoiding air travel. I’ve crossed America on buses and trains and cars with hours and days and weeks in uncomfortable positions. There were dust storms, near misses from a twister, cheap diner food and motels, but no turbulence. Now, as I approach my elder years, I’ve managed to avoid all of this. I arrived here in beautiful Maine 30 years ago and have only been back to Los Angeles once, by train.

I got a scare when my oldest announced her wedding. This meant I would have to “give her away.” This meant I would have to be there. This meant I would have to fly. God intervened. She wanted a coastal Maine wedding. Thank you, Jesus. Safe again.

Not so fast. The youngest has just announced plans to marry her partner, Wayne. After 22 happy years together with successful careers in New York and Hollywood behind them, they’ve decided it would be socially advantageous to be married.

OK, where, within one hour from my house, would you like to be married?

Fugidaboudit! This is a show business couple, a fun loving, adventurous couple. They want to be married at midnight in front of the towering, choreographed musical fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas with a background of Broadway music. All of this is to be followed by a reception back in Los Angeles with Hollywood people I do not know. Really? You know what? I’m looking into Angie’s List for a stand-in “Daddy.”

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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