Panic on a Plane











It happened on a red-eye flight from LA to Miami when the only thing standing between a Caribbean cruise and me turned out to be my first panic attack.

After I returned home I tried to regale my buddies with memories of basking beneath Barbados’ azure sky, sampling local rums and snorkeling jade-colored seas, but they brushed aside my highlights and peppered me with questions about the episode.

According to panic attacks can run in families and be caused by abnormalities in the brain. Major life events can trigger them. The cause of my panic attack turned out to be a child.

Around 9:30pm the doors to our plane closed and my eyes were about to follow suit when a blur streaking down the aisle startled me.  I corkscrewed in my seat and saw a five-year-old darting between the legs of a frazzled flight attendant like a runaway from the circus. My kids thought the scene comical and I found it terrifying. I looked across the aisle in Row 20 where Mr. UnHollywood sat. Slowly, the woman beside him stood.

It seemed like every soul in coach held their breath while she retrieved her super-loud-out-of-control preschooler and settled her older child a few rows back before returning to Row 20. Mr. UnHollywood stood to allow the little one in.

The Mother wafted back down the aisle to tend to her older son, leaving the younger one alone. Faster than you can say “Thomas the Tank Engine,” the boy threw himself into my husband’s seat and slammed his feet forward. The gentleman in Row 19 rocked like he’d been hit by a locomotive. Shocked, he turned around..right as the kid slammed him again.

Mr. UnHollywood shook his head. He has a long and storied history of finding the most interesting people in the world to sit next to on planes. This time, he managed to swap seats with the older boy and moved a few rows back. He missed out on the four hour wrestling show.

Seeing the helpless mother untethered me. Why hadn’t she prepared for this? Finally, we landed.

Remain Seated.

I needed air and began grappling with the overhead air vent.  Clamminess crept over my scalp and dripped down my back. I peeled off my long-sleeve down to my tank top. I rolled my sweats to my thighs like short-shorts. My kids stared at me like I was nuts.

Bing. I wobbled to my feet on the verge of fainting – or barfing. More sweat. The fever pitch of the kid’s wail. People inched forward. The door opened and somehow I passed through it, trundled down the tunnel and collapsed into a chair at the gate. Mr. UnHollywood brought me cold water. “You’re green.” The boys requested a wheelchair, which never arrived.

I had the out-of-body experience of seeing myself in jump cuts to close up like the victim in a Hitchcock movie.

Sooo? Anyone want to hear about the catamaran ride in St. Thomas?


Author Description

Cynthia Baseman

Cynthia Baseman is the author of 'Love, Mom: A Mother's Journey from Loss to Hope.' She writes about motherhood, the environment and education.

There are 10 comments. Add yours

  1. 15th January 2013 | Hayley Kaplan says: Reply
    I do. I want to hear about the catamaran ride in St. Thomas. Hope it was awesome.
  2. 13th January 2013 | Susan kolko says: Reply
    I can relate completely! Keep writing. Your word are unique and thought provoking!
  3. 11th January 2013 | Carpool Goddess says: Reply
    I usually start sweating, praying, and hyperventilating before the plane takes off and during turbulence. That's when I pop another xanax. Sounds like a miserable flight. Hope the rest of your vacation was enjoyable. Any chance it was a "hot-flash?"
    • 12th January 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Think I had one of those hot flashes about a year ago, CG and it felt totally different and was over quickly. This thing made me feel weak for hours. Rest of the trip was dreamy.
  4. 11th January 2013 | Larry says: Reply
    Hi Cindy. Your story reminds of something that happened to me with your brother Greg when we were in college. We had gone skiing to Lake Tahoe one winter and the conditions were amazing. As a matter of fact, the flight we took home from Reno was the last to leave the airport for several days due to the constant storm. On the flight, the plane was dropping hundreds of feet at a time due to pressure pockets and personal items were flying all over the place. My knuckles were white as I grasped the seat praying to survive. When I had a chance to look over at your brother, he was calmly tutoring an asian kid on his chemistry problems. It was as if they had no idea what was going on. To this day, I still laugh when I look back on the experience.
    • 11th January 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Funny story. Hopefully, you won't have anymore flights along those lines.
  5. 11th January 2013 | fromdorothea says: Reply
    Wow! Scary. My sympathies.

Say Something, Why Don't Ya?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.