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Endless checklists.

Last-minute work crunches.

Fears of crashing over a mountain range.

Ain’t flying a wild ride?

Even the most seasoned, grizzled travelers have established routines they rely on before they click their seatbelt into place, but sometimes that’s not enough to calm down the monkey mind ranting that it’s not exactly normal to ascend 30,000 feet into the air. Whether your brain swings into hyper-efficiency mode or disaster-prone agitation, here are some questions your inner monologue might be asking each time you board.

The Night Before Your Flight: My God, the To-Do List Never Ends

Remember the last time you traveled? You told yourself to buy an extra toothbrush and a new laptop sleeve and finally upgrade that frayed duffel bag? Yeah, you never did. While you’re kicking yourself for overlooking what you swore you wouldn’t forget, you’re also worried about getting enough sleep, and closing all your loops at work so you can set that Out of Office message and say, “Adios, suckers.”

The Morning of Your Flight: What Am I Forgetting?

Now’s the time to scramble around gathering your precious electronics and their charging devices, and double-check flight and airline information. But then you’ll ask the most important question of all: Will I be able to poop before my flight? Beware that mid-flight bloat, which can make even short flights uncomfortable. Up your fiber intake the day before flying — you’ll thank me later.

Am I forgetting anything? (Photo by @crystalmariesing via Twenty20)
Am I forgetting anything? (Photo by @crystalmariesing via Twenty20)

En Route to the Airport: Am I Gonna Make It? I’m Not Gonna Make It.

There are two types of people — the ones who arrive two hours before their flight (these are people who don’t hate themselves) and the ones who get high rushing from their Uber to security to their gate (these people do hate themselves). Neurotic fliers can often stress themselves into being late — after all, we procrastinate on things that we fear.

In the Security Line: How Do I Not Have TSA Pre-Check?

I can’t believe I don’t have TSA Pre-Check. I can’t believe I don’t have TSA Pre-Check. I can’t believe I don’t have TSA Pre-Check. 

You can have the perfect suitcase, the best pre-flight routine, thousands of frequent flier miles and yet … this masochistic mantra won’t stop ringing in your ears. How the heck do you not have TSA Pre-Check? All it takes is filling out an online application and an airport appointment and, voila! Like five million other people, you’ll never have to remove your shoes in line again. I’m repeating this one for myself, by the way. My Pre-Check envy is fierce.

At the Airport Store: Who Buys This Junk?

*Thirty seconds later*

My mom is going to love this I ❤️NY sweatshirt! 

Something happens to seemingly normal people before flights — I call it the gift of Airport Goggles. You start to see and do things you’d never normally do. Sticking to your diet for months but suddenly see a delicious processed pound cake at Hudson News? Don’t mind if I do! Not a magazine reader? Get ready to spend $25 on glossy paper you’ll flip through for 10 minutes before settling in to watch five episodes of Modern Family, a show you haven’t watched in years! (I literally just did this, by the way — how’d those Dunphy kids grow up so fast?!) There is something a little soothing about doing weird things out of your typical routine.

At the Gate: Should I Be Ashamed I’m Boarding in Group Six?

Yet another reason to practice airline loyalty — there’s nothing worse than bringing up the rear on a plane. Overheard storage is jam-packed (and gate-checking baggage is your enemy if you’ve got a lightning-fast layover). You have to squeeze between already settled-in passengers. When this happens, you might plot all the ways to achieve a better status — but once you’re back home, you’ll probably forget this minor airport inconvenience … until the next time.

Why am I always the last to board? (Photo by @samueloskar via Twenty20)
Why am I always the last to board? (Photo by @samueloskar via Twenty20)

On the Jet Bridge: Walk Faster, Walk Faster, Walk Faster

Of course, there’s a huge sense of urgency by everyone to board, manifested in people huffing and puffing down the jet bridge. But being overly anxious serves no one — least of all yourself. Besides, after bulldozing onto the jet bridge, you inevitably just … stand there, waiting for everyone else. Hurry up and wait, or … don’t hurry, and you’ll still wait.

In Your Assigned Seat: Your Brain Goes into Overdrive

Do I need to pee? Do I have enough to read? Why isn’t there a seatback screen? Is the guy next to me going to cough the entire flight? How long before my free pretzels? What, they don’t give out free pretzels on this airline?! Did I answer that email? Did I drink enough water? Wasn’t this plane recalled 10 years ago? Why does my pilot look so young?

By this point, your hippocampus is a wellspring of madness.

During Takeoff: A Beautiful Cocktail of Wonder and Fear

Suddenly, you’re up in the air, observing the majesty of the Earth below. You think to yourself, Flying is the most awe-inspiring journey any human can ever take. 

*Cue five seconds of turbulence*

THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE. AM I GONNA DIE? BUT, BUT … I’VE BARELY LIVED!!!

And rinse and repeat until landing. Even experienced fliers get anxious (there’s a reason so many people pop pills — or drink a few Sauvignon Blancs — to chill out), but once you’re up, try to consider how incredible it is. Embrace the fact that you can travel almost anywhere in the world in hours — then it’s much easier to sit back, relax and, well, let it fly.

Illustration by Medioimages / Photodisc / Getty Images

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