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What keeps those planes up, anyway? - Bob Paslay

I am a walking testament to the fact that you can function with your phobias and not be extremely diminished by them.

When it comes to these irrational, excessive and persistent fears, I am the poster boy. I won't even bother to start listing them for you because it would bore you more than I normally do.

Suffice it to say that I, like some others, am afraid of flying. I mention this as I am about to board a plane for my first trip to Europe.

I divide my phobias into two groups n those that could overtake me and kill me like my fear of driving over high bridges like the iron one around Savannah and those that could have no impact on my survival like flying.

The very experienced Delta pilot (I hope) will not even know that I am afraid to fly, that every bump and grind and noise scares me. He will check all his instruments and taxi smoothly Saturday, not knowing or caring that I am holding on for dear life in the cabin.

Don't get me wrong. I am not like the John Lithgow (or earlier William Shatner) who sees something on the wing and has to be restrained by the crew in the Twilight Zone episode.

I sit quietly, holding onto the armrest for dear life. I have flown a few dozen times in my life and believe me the bogus theory that if you confront your fear it will go away is bunk. I snug down my seatbelt so tight that blood has to beg and negotiate its passage down to my legs. I had never unbuckled my seatbelt on a flight. Now I embark on a more than eight-hour flight for a cold vacation into lands in Holland I have never been. I know that with enough coffee I am going to have to unbuckle, my tired old overworked and untended kidneys being what they are. I am bracing for that added fear of walking up that scary aisle to the restroom as the plane flies over deep water (another fear).

So you ask why I didn't take this week of vacation and sit around a nice warm fire in the safety of my house, far away from the whirling and swishing of airports.

When I reason out the answer I will let you know. But in general I try never to let my phobias stop me cold. Yes, I have taken my share of Amtraks and have ridden the dog to places around the country. But as little as I know about science, I know the dog won't float and can't be sailed to Europe. And an eight-hour flight to Amsterdam would be one very long and expensive trip if I took a real boat. It would be like the Griswalds' western "vacation" trip in search of Wally World. "Yeah, there's the Grand Canyon. Let's go."

On vacation, I like to wallow in the common life of those who live where I am visiting, to pretend for a very short time I live there permanently.

I have done no planning for this trip (yes, tonight I am going to wash a handful of shirts and throw them in a suitcase along with some blue jeans and socks. I did buy a used tourist book for a buck at a used boo store. Its introduction to Amsterdam mentioned how it was a haven for hippies in the '60s and how it is a cosmopolitan city trying to overcome this anything goes image. Well judging from friends' reaction it has a ways to go. To a person everyone mentions how you can smoke dope openly in the cafes. Having never tried it and never planning to start at this ripe old age of life, I say that is not the lure that caused me to turn a blind eye to my flying phobia. The $471 roundtrip fare was certainly a lure. The excitement of seeing only what I have imagined helped. The Christmas season, which I dearly love and which the Dutch love to celebrate, was probably a greater draw.

I usually have pretty good luck doing no planning for vacations and hope it is the same this way.

Take heart from me. Meet obstacles and overcome them. Never let fear stop you from doing what you want to do.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com.