Fear Of Flying


I’m afraid of flying. People say it’s safer than driving to which I say I’m afraid of driving too. Telling me I’m more likely to die in the ride to the airport than on the flight only makes it worse people.

I think I can trace my fear of flying (and driving) to my career in computers. Computers “crash” all the time. Programs “crash”, operating systems “crash”, drivers “crash”. Surely there’s some correlation between a “driver crashing” and my fear of driving. And being exposed to the word “crash” a hundred times a day is bound to take it’s toll. Somewhere in my sub-conscious there’s a part of me that knows that things are always crashing. Crashing is very common in computers. So why shouldn’t I expect my airplane to crash? It could get a Blue Screen Of Death somewhere over Denver and then it’s all over. You can’t reboot the airplane, or if you can it’d be a race against time hoping it turns on again before you hit the ground. “NO for the love of God don’t run ScanDisk now!!!”

Working in computers does reinforce the idea that stuff breaks constantly. Especially in I.T. where people are literally calling all day long to complain that something has broken. It’s hard to look at the number of tickets for printing without thinking, “If we can’t even make a printer work reliably how the heck can we trust airplanes?” On the other hand maybe if lives were at stake they’d build the darn printers better.

According to an episode of Mythbusters airplanes can pretty much fly themselves most of the time. They can even land or take off by themselves. I suppose that should exacerbate my fears but it really has the opposite effect. Sure, I’m afraid of computer software crashing, but as long as the computer is functioning correctly I trust it over human beings in almost every way. A computer might crash because it’s malfunctioned, a human might crash because they were trying to change the radio station and weren’t looking where they were going.

“Today some guy was killed in a plane crash because the plane broke down in midair and was unable to reboot in time.” sounds better than. “Today some guy was killed because the pilot spilled hot coffee on their lap.”

Origins Of Caffeine

Today I’m going to tell you where caffeine comes from. Why not get yourself a fresh cup of tea or a mug of coffee to enjoy while reading the following totally true, real facts.

Originally coffee was known only to the Gods. It was the source of their power. One day Caffinitus climbed Mt. Olympus and stole some coffee plants from Zeus’s garden. For bringing the “Brown Ambrosia” to humanity the Gods punished all humans with the curse that, if we ever stop drinking coffee, we will suffer the pangs of headache and fatigue. The humans drank it anyway.

Of course there’s also caffeine in Tea. An ancient Chinese farmer once saw a dragon flying by at amazing speed. And when I say dragon I don’t mean the European, big, fat dragon that we associate with Bilbo and the Lonely Mountain but rather the long, skinny more snakelike dragons of Eastern culture. The dragon flew by so fast that the farmer wondered where it got its energy. The farmer tracked the dragon back to its home. It was sitting awkwardly in a chair (it’s hard to imagine how a creature such as that could “sit” yet that’s how the story goes) and sipping water with tea leaves. Thus did that farmer return home and invent not only the drinking of Tea but also the chair. Although many people preferred to sit on the floor the beverage became very popular.

Energy Drinks first appeared in the homes of people who had been abducted by aliens. After waking up with a vague recollection of visiting a space ship during the night people would find an energy drink on their nightstand. Most think it was a gift, the aliens knew the human they had abducted would be tired the next day from having been “probed” all night and the energy drink would help them get through the day. Others wonder if the energy drink itself was just another experiment to see how humans would behave when super jacked up on energy drinks. Regardless of the aliens intentions some of the energy drinks were studied, reverse engineered, and eventually replicated. Now people all over the world are either enjoying an otherworldly gift or participating in an alien experiment.

Chocolate, which also has some small amount of caffeine, was a gift from God because life on Earth seemed a little too hard. And He wanted to do something nice for us.

Back In My Day

Have you ever watched an 8 year old child, born and raised in these modern times, try to play the original Super Mario Bros.? The phrase Epic Fail comes to mind. Kids today can’t beat the games that I played back in my day.

In my day most video games started in arcades. They were designed for you to die. Over and over again. Every Game Over screen meant you had to put more money in the machine. That pushed video game developers to make games fun enough that you wanted to keep playing but hard enough that you’d die over and over and have to pay another quarter to try again. But it worked because all the video games were that hard. And there were those few kids who were so good that they could play for hours on a single quarter, the reward for getting good at those games was that it literally cost you less money. You had to pay once to start the game, but after that each additional quarter was the literal price you paid for losing. If you never lost you never had to pay again. That seemed fair.

When consoles became popular and we stopped paying twenty five cents per life the overall game design philosophy was slow to change. So what if death didn’t equal another quarter? Video games had always been hard and they would continue to be hard. Beating the original Super Mario Bros. was an ACHIEVEMENT. I died so many times in world 1-1 that I expected to fill in the pits I had to jump over with Mario’s dead bodies. And then when I finally beat “Bowser” in world 1-3 and some little mushroom person told me the princess was in a different castle I lost my gosh darn mind. If I had known any swear words I would have used them! “POO!!! That butt says I have to look in another farting castle! What a poopy … poop face!” (when I was either most of my “bad words” were butt/poop related) And the anxiety of playing world 2-1 was off the charts. I was so worried about dying and starting all over again all the way back at the beginning that I was almost too afraid to keep playing! I wasn’t sure I could get this far again, ever! It was a combination of luck and prayer that had gotten me past Bowser ONCE! The thought of doing it again was too much. My heart very nearly burst from the sheer stress of it.

That difficulty made for a couple wonderful moments. Finding a shortcut, a warp pipe or ceiling you could walk on top of, was momentous enough to declare a nation holiday. “Why don’t we have to work Monday?” “Monday is Warp Pipe Day, it celebrates the time some kid found a shortcut to the end of Super Mario Bros.” When I found the warp pipes hidden in the underground world 1-2 that let you skip whole WORLDS ahead I was overjoyed! Whatever stress and paranoia I experienced when I was further than ever before and scared of starting over was more than made up for by the exhilaration of discovering some new secret. The constant fear of death also made the 1-Up Mushroom (or any extra life in any video game) the sweetest thing! In the arcade an extra life was literally the same as free money, on the console it was a chance to get farther in the game than ever before. When death had consequences 1-Ups meant something.

Now, when you play Super Mario Bros. Wii and you run out of lives you don’t even have to start over. They just give you more lives. If you get more things whenever you run out of things that means you have unlimited things. And having unlimited lives is just a bad life lesson if you ask me. I don’t know why the game bothers to count how many lives you have when there’s no penalty to running out of them.

Rogue Like games are kind of popular today, these are modern games where when you die you have to start over. I think they’re popular among my generation because that’s how EVERY GAME USED TO BE.

Diablo has a mode called Hard Core where when you die you have to start all over. That’s nothing, I beat Super Mario Bros. on Hard Core when I was eight!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy modern games. The fact is that between having a job and grown up responsibilities I probably don’t have time to play a game where I have to keep starting over. But I can’t help but feel like the modern generation of gamers is missing out on something. When games were harder they were also more rewarding. At least that’s how I chose to remember it.