With the bombardment of 24-hour news coverage about the missing Malaysian jet -- especially coming after the Asiana crash at SFO last year -- I'm feeling downright up in the air. And that's a place I don't like to be.
That's right, I dislike flying. In fact, I hate it. If flying were a person, I wouldn't even buy it a cup of coffee were it looking pathetic and shivering outside on a chilly day. Well, maybe at Starbucks, but definitely not at Peet's.
Despite my aversion, I do fly anyway, and I will continue to do so because I want to get places without driving for days or swimming across an ocean. But it really doesn't help to have so much microscopic expert analyses of every possible thing that could go wrong with a flight, every possibly thing that has gone wrong with a flight, plus detailed information on extreme turbulence, wind shear, suicidal pilots going rogue or planes stalling if they go up over 45,000 feet and possibly plummet like a sack of beans, with me as one of those poor helpless innocent little legumes, squealing like a frightened little lentil and. ...
It's just TMI. When I fly, I want to keep my head down, do my crossword puzzles (averaging about 45 of them on a cross-country nonstop flight) and just be happy that the wings stay on.
Oh, "Don't watch the news," you say? "Change the channel to the Food Network," you say? "Watch Bobby Flay concoct something with three chickens and a blowtorch."
That would be nice, but I cannot stay away. For one, the TV in our newsroom is always set on CNN. And, two, as much as I hate flying, I love a good mystery and, along with Courtney Love, I'm obsessed with the fate of Flight 370.
By now we may or may not have found out what happened. As I write, an international posse of ships and planes are headed out off the western coast of Australia to investigate some debris spotted by a satellite. And while Wolf Blitzer awaits actual developments, he is exploring yet another ever-so-helpful theory put forth in aviation circles: a zombie plane.
"Up next," Wolf teases. "Did deadly battery fumes or lack of oxygen create a so-called 'zombie plane'? It's a chilling new theory. We investigate." True to his word, after a commercial for plaque psoriasis, experts point out that such a scenario has happened before, back in 1999 when golfer Payne Stewart's Learjet lost cabin pressure and all on board died, but the plane kept flying until it crashed in South Dakota.
Oh, great. Zombies. I hate zombies even more than I hate flying, which is saying a lot. And never should any of the above meet. Not even at Peet's.
Maybe it's just me. I got curious and contacted a few fear-of-flying clinics, and most said they haven't had a rise in interest for classes specifically because of all this news. But Capt. Tom Bunn, an airline pilot who has developed methods to treat flight phobia and blogs about it on PsychologyToday.com, says the Malaysian mystery -- and the nonstop media coverage -- has indeed been generating great distress on online message boards.
"In most crashes, the news tells us what happened, and in a day or so -- unless the crash involved someone we knew -- the event becomes old news," he says. "This case is different: A plane disappeared. We think, 'This can't happen. A plane can't just disappear.'
"This creates a demand for so-called experts who we call upon to spin theories in thin air," which exacerbates fears, grounded in reality or not, Bunn says. "We can thank the media for that. The speculation offers some sense of connection, but if it fits a person's worst fears, then the cure the media offers to deal with the unknown is worse than the disease."
CNN was still on in my office, with a reporter waving a small model plane around, describing yet another horrific possibility.
I changed channels. That blowtorch chicken sure looks tasty.
Follow Angela Hill at Twitter.com/giveemhill.