Unfortunately, my "Fear of Flying" does not have Erica-Jong type sexual escapades with which to regale my readers. My "fear of flying" keeps me talking to God pretty much from the time the engines rev up and we go hurtling down the runaway like a bunch of Angus being run into the slaughter house until we get to cruising altitude and can look out and see that we're being held up by the clouds. Piety replaces whatever stewardess-inspired fantasies were in my mind again about the time I hear the ailerons being extended until the reassuring thump of wheels hitting concrete signals that I didn't need God's help after all to make it through this trip.
The fact that we will be flying Northwestern on our upcoming trip to Switzerland is inspiring even more devotion than usual. Northwestern's mechanics have been on strike for a week, and I do not relish getting on a plane whose bolts have been tightened by temporary laborers for the last two weeks. I will be carefully checking the tarmac for brown paper bags with the tops of cheap whiskey bottles sticking out before I get on any plane this trip.
I am a little too superstitious to mention this with equanimity, but the idea of dying doesn't have the same terror for me that it did 20 years ago. One reason might be that the idea of burning in eternity in a lake of brimstone has less credibility with me now than it did then, but I think that it is more likely that my stage in life is different. The idea of my little boys being left without a father was more terrifying to me than the idea that God might give me some well-deserved punishment for my iniquities. At 28 and 21, my sons have shown that they can get along without me much better than I might even wish.
Nevertheless, for the first time in my life, I have purchased flight insurance. I already knew, but reread, the financial advisors' analyses of what a bad economic decision purchasing flight insurance is. One analysis said that if an insurance company collected $15 from every traveler in the United States and paid out $1 million for every person killed in an airplane crash, they would still make something like $7 billion a year. Great! Our capitalistic system works only if large corporations make huge profits. Let them. I want to have the peace of mind of knowing that if the compressor keeping the plane pressurized fails because the guy from Manpower didn't know he was supposed to check the oil, my sons will be millionaires - even though I didn't leave them any insurance company stock.