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Deb Neuman Deb Neuman
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A bumpy ride

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I was braced for impact. My left arm was pushing against the seat back in front of me while my right hand cradled my face as I closed my eyes and did my best to imagine I was someplace else anywhere else! 'Please let this be over,' I thought. Every few seconds I would open my eyes to look around to see if the other passengers were as freaked out as I was. I looked to the flight attendant who was strapped into his seat to assess his facial expressions to determine whether or not I should start praying. This was the worst turbulence I had ever experienced. It wasn't just bumpy it was like a bad amusement park ride. We were shaken and tossed sideways, up and down. I wanted off this ride! This was just too much to take, but take it I did. What choice did I have? If this was to be the 'end' - then so be it. So I gritted my teeth, held my head down, cranked up my iTunes and rode it out with sweaty palms.

After what felt like hours of pure hell, it was over. We were flying smoothly. This was when the beverage service started. When asked by the flight attendant what I would like to drink, I asked for a shot of something strong. I wasn't kidding. Other passengers chimed in with similar requests. The smiling flight attendant told us it had been like that all day. He was seemingly unfazed by it. For him it was just another day at the office. But he recognized that we were far from unfazed, and, in an effort to calm us down, he explained that it was worse as we flew along the cloud line. That's where all the bumpy air was, and there were a lot of storms in our flight path stirring things up. He further comforted us by saying it would likely be a smooth ride for the remainder of the flight.

Suddenly my heart rate returned to its normal level. My palms were no longer sweaty, and I relaxed out of my crash position stance. I pulled out a magazine and enjoyed my seltzer water. I was going to live! What helped me the most was the explanation from the flight attendant. Intellectually, I knew that turbulence is normal, and like riding a car over a bumpy road or sailing on choppy seas, it's a plane's way of riding over choppy air. But it's scary when you're not used to it and don't know what's normal. For the crew on that plane, turbulence is normal and expected. In those situations, the best thing they can do is recognize that for their customers, this wasn't normal and to explain to us what was going on.

This is a great lesson to keep in mind if you're a parent, a medical provider, an educator or a business owner. What you might take for granted might elicit fear in your child, your patient, your student or your customer. By providing a detailed explanation and description of what to expect, you can go a long way to build trust and loyalty. Don't we all feel better when our doctor fully explains the reasons for our symptoms and what to expect from our treatment, or when our mechanic fully explains what our vehicle needs for repairs and how much it will cost? Teachers who are very clear about what it's going to take to get an 'A' always made the grade with me! And should you find yourself in a situation where you're scared, fearful or confused, ask lots of questions of the expert in the know! Knowing what to expect good or bad will go a long way to reduce your anxiety and stress.

As we made our final approach into Bangor, the pilot came over the intercom, thanked us for flying with them and apologized for the 'bumpy' ride. As we de-planed, I thanked the flight attendant for taking the time to explain to us what was going on and reducing my stress level. He did a great job. That's a lesson we can all learn from when the ride gets a little bumpy!


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