But that isn't going to stop me from flying to Seattle this Sunday. I know all of the statistics about how safe it is to fly. But that doesn't change the fact that I can't stop fantasizing about what it would be like to fall from the sky.
A week or so ago, I happened to be lucky enough to partake in a completely inane conversation with a co-worker. It went a little something like this:
Me: I hate flying.
Co-Worker: Me too. I won't fly unless I absolutely must. I don't like flying because who knows what sort of record a plane has had. How old is it? Has it had any accidents?
Me; Well, it couldn't have had too bad an accident or else it wouldn't be around anymore.
CW: Yes, but planes get into accidents all the time, but the media doesn't report it because they are so common.
Me: What kind of accidents are you talking about?
CW: Well, not big crashes because that is all that the media covers, but other accidents.
Me: Hmmmm... um, well the only thing that keeps me flying is I tell myself how safe it is to fly.
CW: No, it isn't.
Me: It is safe to fly. There hasn't been a major American airline crash in three years. And 45,000 people die every year in car accidents. (For 2003, it was 43,000.)
CW: Yeah, but that is because so many more people drive every year. So it is skewed.
Me: Even if more people drive, it is 45,000 deaths to zero over the past three years. Whatever way you cut it, it is about 135,000 deaths to nothing over the past three years when you talk large jets. How can you say driving is safer than flying?
CW: I don't care what the numbers are, you can make statistics prove whatever point you want. I don't believe that flying is safer than driving. If anything, I'd rather fly in a small prop plane.
Other Co- Worker: What? Those are so unsafe! Those are the planes that crash.
CW: But those planes that crash are the ones flown by amateurs.
Other CW: That isn't true. You think that that pilot in the Dick Ebersol crash was an amateur? No way.
CW: They're mostly flown by amateurs and that is why they crash.
Me: Those small planes crash all the time and I don't think that most of them are flown by amateurs but I don't know. And the media doesn't make a big deal out of them because only 5 or 6 people die at a time. I see what you're saying though. When I fly, I feel fairly safe as long as the ground is only like 2,000 or so feet away. I feel like if the plane broke up at 2,000 feet, I could land comfortably on a roof and roll off or something. I know it is completely ludicrous but I guess it is my way of making myself feel better even though I know that the most dangerous parts of a flight are takeoff and landing.
CW: No, they're not mind tricks I'm playing on myself. It is the truth. If a big plane has problems, it is so big that it will automatically fall. But one of the small planes can glide all the way to safety.
Me: Come on, you're kidding.
CW: No, really.
Gliding all the way home.
Now this co-worker is a nice person and a solid professional. But she is also a Republican. And I have found that her politics and many other conservatives that I've either spoken to or read recently have the same attitude about world events as this co-worker does about flying. And that is: The truth is how I define it and none of your fancy "facts" can change my mind.
Only a small percentage of American auto fatalities are incurred by professionals.
Anyway, wish me luck on Sunday.
And I guess on the return flight on Friday too.