7 Quick Takes on a plane!!!

March 28, 2014 | 30 comments

— 1 —

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 9.28.43 PM

I’m on my way to Raleigh for Ignited by Truth, so this edition of 7 Quick Takes will be written 30, 000 feet over the southeast United States. As if #TWEETSONAPLANE!!! wasn’t enough to make you wish the internet didn’t exist, I hereby bring you #7QUICKTAKESONAPLANE!!!

— 2 —

I’m not going to turn this into a litany of complaints about flying. I would not use my blog to wonder aloud what kind of moral state one must be in to use a seat to hold one’s gossip magazines and scarf when there are people all around looking for places to sit. A lady of grace such as myself is far above issuing public service announcements like: “When you answer your cell phone in a crowded gate seating area, IT DOES NOT MAGICALLY TRANSPORT YOU INTO ANOTHER DIMENSION WHERE THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU CANNOT HEAR YOU SHOUTING.” I wouldn’t even consider speculating that today must be Bad People Fly Free day when I am hunched under the overhead compartment, trying to get into the aisle, and a man pushes past me so that I can’t step out. Never would I indulge in such meditations, especially not during Lent.

— 3 —

I would, however, like to document a wish:

I would happily make a solemn promise never to complain about air travel again — not even a single tweet, even if we were flying through a hurricane and the plane had free cocktails and wifi — if I could be granted one wish:

I want to take a three-hour flight, in coach, with the CEO of a major airline sitting next to me. I imagine this moment vividly:

After he stuffs himself into his economy seat, I allow him a moment to regain his composure as he subdues his fight-or-flight instinct that screams that his surroundings are so confined that he will surely suffocate to death. As he seeks a modicum of comfort by employing maneuvers usually only seen by professional contortionists, I say:

“Been a few years since you’ve flow coach, huh? Allow me to be your guide to the experience.”

I tut-tut him as he leans on the arm rest, noting that only half of the three-inch-wide space is his. When the woman in front of him puts all her weight into reclining her seat as far as it will go, so that it turns him into a human sandwich with his own seat back, I shrug with a knowing smile. When he jumps up to make an urgent restroom trip and sees the beverage cart inching its way down the aisles, blocking his path to the restroom for a good 15 minutes, I point to the stewardess who is glaring at him like he’s a criminal for even considering using the First Class bathroom.

And when the plane hits turbulence, and feelings of despair sweep over him as he now understands what it would be like to be stuffed into a wall locker that’s strapped to a rodeo bull, I turn to him and say gently, “Could I chat with you about ways your airline could reduce costs without cutting seat space?”

This is why God doesn’t pop up like a genie and give us powerful choices. Because at this particular moment, if I had a choice between world peace and the plane trip with a CEO…I would not make the right decision.

— 4 —

I am now running out of time to finish this post. You know why? Because I just spent 30 minutes agonizing over my bathroom strategy.

You see, as a socially awkward claustrophobic, there are no plane seats that are good for me. If I get an aisle seat I feel like I’m trapped within the bowels of the metal death ship, but if I get a window seat I spend the first third of the flight worrying that I’ll have to go to the bathroom, the next third realizing that I do have to go to the bathroom and rehearsing telling my seatmates I need to get up, and the last third fretting that I ruined their flight and perhaps their entire lives by making them stand up for my bathroom trip. (I didn’t list middle seats as an option, since I would demand to fly with the pets in the baggage hull before I took a middle seat on a plane.)

So I have spent a good portion of the flight lost in internal dialogue that goes something like this:

Okay, I’m going to ask now. Wait. No. There’s turbulence. So the stewardess might make me go back to my seat, in which case the two people next to me would have to stand up again, then stand up yet another time when I finally get to go.

Things have smoothed out. Maybe now. But gosh. They look so comfortable. The guy on the aisle just closed his eyes as if entering a state of deep relaxation. What if he’s about to reach a mountaintop moment of internalizing transcendent truths, and then he forever looks back on his life and says wistfully, “I once came within a breath of achieving oneness with the Divine…and then the bad woman had to get up to go to the bathroom.”

— 5 —

Joe once asked why I don’t like aisle seats if I’m claustrophobic. “It seems like it would make you feel more free not to have anyone next to you, ” he said. He also pointed out that aisle seats make it easier to get to the exits in case of emergency.

After chuckling at the naivete of the notion, I explained that being in the very center of the plane only makes me feel more trapped. “I need to be able to stare out the window, because it’s like I’m out in the clouds instead of being trapped in the plane. It makes me feel free.”

He paused for a moment. “But…you’re not out in the clouds. You’re still in the plane.”

“But being able to see the sky makes me think about it and not the terrible plane, and that’s what matters.”

After another long pause in which I’m pretty sure he was internalizing the reality that he married a brain in a jar, he said, “You really aren’t very connected to the physical world, are you?”

(The lesson here is: flying brings out ALL my crazy.)

— 6 —

I just told Lisa-Jo Baker on Twitter that I’m offering up my suffering for the success of her book, Surprised by Motherhood, which will be released on Tuesday!

We Catholic believe that we can unite our suffering to Christ’s sufferings — like, rather than just whining about it — to turn it into a love-generating act. (I am probably doing a bad job of explaining this since I am now on hour five of travel, but I described it in my post about how I always listen to Tupac in labor.)

Anyway, I really believe that Surprised by Motherhood will be a tremendous encouragement to women, so I am doing the suffering-into-love thing (when I’m not, umm, complaining on Twitter), which I’ve noticed can be a powerful form of prayer. Given how very much I dislike being trapped in containers that bounce in the sky, you can go ahead and bank on Lisa-Jo’s book make Harry Potter look like a failure.

— 7 —

Speaking of books, THANK YOU for the incredibly warm response to my announcement about the free ebook pre-order gift. I was blown away by your generosity and your support.

I’m dying to get The Family-First Creative out there so that we can start talking about it. I can’t wait for Monday!



  1. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    I always go with the window seat; I want something to lean on!

  2. Jackie

    I’m so bummed. I was at the Ignited by Truth conference last year for John Paul the Great Catholic University, the university I work for, and we aren’t going this year. Would have loved to hear you speak and meet you in person.

    Travel safe!

  3. Jenny Ryan

    You are so close to me! I will be on retreat this weekend so I am not going to Raleigh for the conference. Enjoy my old home town!

  4. Kate

    I don’t think the coach seats are that bad. Frankly, Southwest (and AirTran) offer SUCH amazing deals that I’m just grateful I don’t have to break the bank to go wherever I want. I mean, if we think about it, for a couple hundred (sometimes less or even free with enough points) we can go from one end of the country to the other. That’s so amazing! I’d sit in even smaller seats for that. I’m also of average height, though. So, I can actually cross my legs if I want to, stretch out, curl up, etc. I never use the shared arm rest either, so it’s a moot point for me; my seatmate can have it. I think the only annoyance I have about flying, in general, is that on domestic flights, on certain airlines, especially when it’s one part of an eventual international journey, the coach and first class seats are the same. Which is super annoying if you’ve sprung for first!

    • Jarrod

      So much this.

      If there is something we think is lacking on an airplane, we should remember that it is probably absent because nobody will pay the extra airfare it would require.

  5. TheresaEH

    I pay extra to be near the bathroom ;p The only way I will get onto a plane is with valium !

  6. Renee

    This is why my husband is willing to take a pay cut for not traveling.

  7. Mandi @ Messy Wife, Blessed Life

    I’ll be seeing you tonight! And tomorrow! And I want to personally say that as a short person, I don’t really understand how awful your flying experiences are (though I see my tall husband crunching himself up in a seat) but I really appreciate you going through that to come speak here tonight! I can’t wait! More exclamation points!!!

  8. Tracy Bua Smith

    Loved your reasoning for NOT wanting an aisle seat! I’ve never heard of an “anti-aisle seat” person explain it that way, but it makes sense to me! I love plane rides, maybe because I don’t get the chance as often as I would like! Enjoy your plane ride and I’ll see you at IBT in RaleighWOOD! 🙂 Praying for safe and happy travels for you and all who will be at IBT!

  9. Laura

    Hope you got there in a good mental state 🙂 Enjoy the conference. I flew a few weeks ago for the first time in 15 years so I hear you! I took an aisle seat, though, mainly because of that bathroom thing. I get sick looking out the window so that would have intensified the feeling of being trapped in a window seat. And, yeah, I’d only take a middle seat if I had to.

  10. Janis r

    There is hope! I used to have to have a window seat so I could see the ground. But now I realize that the aisle seat is much more comfortable and you can still see out as much as you need. An aisle seat allows much less claustrophobic feelings….try it on your next flight. And it solves the issue of having to crawl over people!

  11. Kathleen Basi

    I am sending this link to my husband, who is a wreck on an airplane. He will vindicate you. 🙂

  12. Teresa Grodi

    My Tupac preference during labor is California Love. “Shake, shake it, baby…. Shake it, mama… The Richter scale, Talkin’ ’bout an earthquake on the Richter scale.” It gives me confidence 😉

  13. LPatter

    TOTALLY with you on the window seats!!! 100%.

  14. Monica

    You’re socially awkward AND claustrophobic? Oh, Jen, that’s a whole new level of unfair. God bless you!

    I totally fulfill the socially awkward part on planes, though. My most notable instance being a normal flight in which I was severely sleep deprived. That moment when a plane banks after it takes off had me freak out to the point I was convinced this plane didn’t have enough”power” and we were all going down. In that moment, I proceeded to grab the young man next to me who looked like he was just nestling down for a short snooze and say something to the effect of, “oh my gosh, we’re going to crash! ” just when I realized the plane was now straightening out. I apologized and explained my tired state, but I’m pretty sure he thought I was VERY crazy. Im sure he’ll have lots of fun retelling that one for a long time.

  15. Tori

    I knew it. We are twins separated at birth. Or not. But kind of.

    I really hate flying, too. I used to enjoy it up until I was in college – despite occasional motion sickness – and then something changed. I’m still not sure what exactly. But I have gradually come to hate it.

    Usually my plane flights go something like this: getting squished into those seats, 7 months pregnant and with a small toddler on my lap, while the only person in the row in front of us to recline their seat is the one in front of ME. Ugh.

    The worst by far though is the last time I flew, which was last summer. I only had my 3 month old along, and I thought it wouldn’t be too bad. Boy, was I wrong! It was a smaller plane with only two seats on each side of the aisle, and they put me in the very back corner of the plane. Which was bad to begin with. The very last passenger to sit down was the one next to me, who happened to be a very large man who just couldn’t fit entirely in his own seat. So not only am I in the very back corner of the plane with a baby on my lap, I’m also sharing my seat with a large stranger. There was just no way to not have our legs touching. And on the other side, the wall of the plane was curving over my head. It was agony. I wanted to complain, but since he was the last one to sit down I felt that it would delay the flight. So I sat quietly trying not to have a panic attack as the claustrophobia set in BIG TIME. It sounds silly, but I really think that was the worst 45 minutes of my life. Thank God it was such a short flight!!!

    I really don’t know what I’m going to do when we have to fly again. Each time the anxiety gets worse :/

  16. Lisa-Jo

    OK that Voxer message actually makes sense now 🙂 And this might be my favorite thing anyone has EVER said about my book, “you can go ahead and bank on Lisa-Jo’s book making Harry Potter look like a failure.”

    You know her middle name was “Jo” too 🙂

    But seriously, you are the MOST generous friend to mention anything about my book while your life and your sanity were suspended in mortal territory. I totally just flat out like you a lot.

  17. Emily @ Em's Estuary

    Oh my word – HAHAHA
    So funny. You and I should never sit near on a plane. Too much of the same altered mental state!
    I do love Lisa Jo. I’ve been considering both of your books. I’m on a book freeze till after Lent. I’m trying to determine if pre-orders count. Ha!

  18. Deb

    OMGosh! It takes quite a lot for me to comment on the internet, but I just plain have to now. I literally laugh out loud at your posts which means, as I’m a total introvert, they are pretty darn funny and I can completely relate to what you are saying. And it feels sooooooo good to know that there are other people out there who have the same ongoing internal conversation with themselves when deciding on whether or not to attempt a bathroom trip on a plane, or also that they “really aren’t very connected to the physical world” either because a good portion of life is what is going on in their thoughts and head. Love it! But all that aside, I also really love to read your posts because you genuinely share about the challenges and realities of walking the Christian walk. And, as a Protestant who is currently attending an Eastern Orthodox Church (with Albanian roots nonetheless) with her boyfriend, I enjoy reading the things you share from the Catholic Church and other sources I might not have come across. So, not only does my Christian walk get strengthened, I feel a sense of community (as it’s nice to read the other comments too, but still safe for us introverts as we don’t have to comment if we don’t want too!), but I also get my funny bone tickled too. Thanks for sharing and God bless you!

  19. Cat W.

    I’ll just leave this here: http://youtu.be/uEY58fiSK8E

    “You’re sitting in a chair in the sky!” (Seriously, that’s pretty amazing!!)

  20. Bob Soucy

    Thanks for coming to Raleigh. I saw you both Friday and Saturday and appreciated you flying out to be with us. Your talks were thought provoking, especially the five things to avoid when trying to “convert” others. Your “simple but very hard” call to be a Saint as the one sure way to reach others still echoes in my mind and heart. You made me think and prompted me to end the conference by going into the adoration room to pray and ask the Lord to use me anyway He wants to…God bless you and your family! Hope you had a safe flight back! 🙂

  21. Lauren S.

    Hi Jen! Not sure this is really related to anything you wrote in this post but I happily stumbled across a new Christian alternative folk singer (I didn’t know there was such a thing!)that I wondered if you knew. You mention you like rap and I heard Josh Garrels for the first time the other day. He does some rap but mostly folk. Wow, I’m loving listening to him! Check him out! What a week for music for me, first Sister Christina on the Italian version of The Voice and now Josh. Maybe you should listen to Josh on your flight home. Just wanted to share the joy!

  22. Karen Edmisten

    “like, rather than just whining about it — to turn it into a love-generating act.”

    I remember when I first figured out that I should actually-consciously-say-it-out-loudly-deliberately try to turn suffering into a prayer. I was like, “Oh, wow! You mean I should do it *in the moment* and not three days after that stomach flu that had me writhing on the bathroom floor? There’s a concept.”

    I have plumbers coming tomorrow for a major fix — I will offer it up for your plane ride home, which I assume is happening today?

  23. Kathleen

    Although I’ve followed you for years, I have never commented before. I actually read this post to my husband while he was in China for business! He told me that you and I are the same person!

    You don’t know this, but #4 and #5 make us best friends (as well as all the other posts you’ve had over the years!) I’m just afraid if we ever met you would wonder about this crazy stalker who feels like they know you!

    From another tall sufferer of flood yoga pants!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      If you can relate to #4 and #5, you might need to worry about *me* stalking *you*!

  24. Zoe - SlowMama

    Oh, as a claustrophobic, terrified flyer, I can so feel your pain. Except that I don’t have any big problem asking someone to stand up for my needs. Like the time I was on the most enormous plane on the earth on my way to Ethiopia and the plane was completely packed and we were stuck in the back and our row of seats was BOLTED INTO THE PLANE crooked (seriously) and I was stuck in a middle seat and kept getting up insisting the flight attendant move us (because I was not going to stay sane sitting squished at an angle for 13 hours). And to get up and speak to the attendant I had to keep disturbing the man sitting beside me in the aisle seat. And I didn’t care that I was THAT WOMAN because I was freaking out so bad. So instead of waiting a few hours before I swallowed my Zanax — which was my plan — I had to down it right then because I was in full-blown panic attack. And then I had to make that flight three more times 🙂

  25. Michelle

    I so much love to fly. I love it so much but I am not a witch.


  26. Aileen Searles

    I asked before and I’m still wondering how to get your free ebook? I preordered your book awhile back but either I’m clueless or I missed how to obtain the ebook somehow. Or maybe you just haven’t let us know yet? I’m sure it’s just me. I can be embarrassingly and cringe-worthy clueless! Apologies Jen!

  27. Gina

    Jen, I think I once told you about the British radio show “Cabin Pressure.” If you haven’t heard it yet, you really, really need to hear the “Gdansk” episode, where the pilots make bets on which passenger will make it to the lavatory first.

    . . . On the other hand, maybe you really, really need NOT to hear that one. 🙂

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