How a Total Germaphobe Gets Through An Airplane Flight PLUS! My Toenail Fell Off, at 39,000 Feet

Everything about the flying in an airplane experience horrifies me.
Publish date:
January 15, 2013
airplanes, flying, germs, germaphobia

There are only two things that I can appreciate about flying:

1) Since you are stuck in a giant metal winged tampon applicator hurtling toward your destination at a speed most non-astronauts ought not to move at, you have every excuse to embrace the situation and read or watch the greatest garbage pop culture has to offer. The in- flight movie, due to the lack of oxygen or 10th generation butt-bacteria you are absorbing, will be the greatest movie you will ever see. I watched "Thor" on a flight from Honolulu to Dallas, and it CHANGED MY LIFE.

2) You can fart freely. A loud cabin that already smells weird, and a sound dampening seat cushion/life saving device (I don't buy it) make for the perfect environment in which to…release. Go ahead, try it the next time you are on a plane. I just did.

Everything else about the flying in an airplane experience horrifies me.

The smells, the seats, the breathing air, the proximity to other humans, the bathrooms- EGADS THE BATHROOMS!, the guy coughing up his spleen across the aisle, the inevitable greasy nose print I find on my window- my anxiety addled brain sees all of these as evidence that if the plane doesn't fall out of the sky and kill me, the filth will.

Surprise! I'm a germaphobe!

Normally I have my phobia under control. I've dealt with pretty intense anxiety and OCD over the years and have gotten pretty darn good at being a functioning part of society. These days, instead of just never using public restrooms because all I can think about are the hundreds of other butts and hands and body parts that have come into contact with every surface in a stall, I just have a calculated and researched method for choosing my bathroom stall.

Choose the one closest to the sink or the entrance, or the one with a door that doesn't stay closed. Nobody wants those stalls, thus less traffic. Fewer butt-germs and who cares if you have to hold the door shut with your foot? I digress.

However nothing bitch-slaps my anxiety and germaphobia harder than flying.

As I type this, I am sitting in my window seat (HATE the window seat) on the first leg of a 12 hour long red-eye flight from Honolulu to Boca Raton, Florida.

All I can think about is how many elbows have touched where my elbow now rests on my arm rest. I'm thinking about skin diseases. Have you seen some people's elbows? You know those elbows (I've been guilty of this, too) where they are so dry that if they rub across a rough or textured surface they leave a trail of skin flakes? Like skin toned skid marks? I'm thinking about THAT.

I'm also thinking about my head rest, the back of my seat. I get this way in movie theaters, too. Who was the last person to put their head on the back of my seat? Did they nestle their greasy little head into what is currently MY seat? Did they have dandruff? Lice? Scalp crabs? HOW DID THEY GET SCALP CRABS?!

Don't even think about the in-flight magazines. (Though I do want ALL the goodies from Sky Mall. Perpetual Motion Moose Decal Sweater Defuzzer anyone?)

We are experiencing turbulence.

Every time I'm in a plane and it starts to jump and dip and threaten to dump us into the ocean, I remember the time my neuroses were challenged by what I think of as the Trinity of Terror on an airplane.

It was during college, and I was flying back to school. Though I had scored the coveted aisle seat, I found myself seated next to a woman traveling with an infant, whom she held on her lap, and a toddler who sat in the middle seat next to me.

By the way, I don't hate babies or children. I really don't! I embrace my role as Crazy Aunt Louise to my friends' and family's children, and I'm really good at arguing politics with 2nd-graders.

However, in my heightened state of, shall I say, hygienic awareness, the toddler's moist little hand that went intermittently from her mouth to my knee to her mouth to my arm, for the first hour or so of the flight, was really starting to unnerve me. Not to mention, somewhere along the line, I noticed a growing odor emanating from the toddler's baby sister.

Then the turbulence started.

It was the kind of turbulence that would suddenly drop the plane a few feet, leaving your stomach in your nose and your heart in your teeth. The grade A, "This is How I'm Going to Die" kind of turbulence. So of course, Mom decided this was a good time to change her baby's diaper.

She shooed the toddler out of the middle seat, so she was sitting on the floor at our feet, and proceeded to lay her stinky baby down between us. I tried to focus on my book and pretend that the poopy diaper smell next to me and the visual aid accompanying it was no biggie -- all the while making a mental list of the people I would attempt to call on my cell phone should the plane go down. Needless to say, I was sweaty.

She was just about finished up when we hit a big bump. I felt something hit lap. It was warm. I looked down. I yelped.

It was the balled up, dirty diaper. IT WAS ON ME.

I flicked it off my lap and into the aisle, and when I turned to the mom, my mouth agape, she just giggled, and pointed to the dirty diaper in the aisle, "Can you grab that for me? (giggle, giggle) You know how it is!"

I gave her the diaper and ran to the bathroom where I spent 15 minutes washing my hands.

If I think about it too hard right now, I won't be able to sit here for the rest of the flight, so instead I'm thinking about my toenail. It fell off about 30 minutes ago.

I'm not a leper. Its not a fungus. Its just that I have very weak toenail beds. Specifically the pinky toe. I tend to walk into things, very often jamming or breaking my toes. I've learned over the years, that if you traumatize those little piggies enough, your toenails will come off. And that particular little piggy had been threatening to surrender for a while now.

If you are at all squeamish or judgmental, don't look at the picture below. If you want to see me and my toenail on an airplane, you're in luck!

And that is where I am now. My right pinky toe is naked and susceptible, and I do not have a Band-aid in which to swaddle it. It hurts to put it in my shoe but I'm too grossed out to go barefoot on an airplane. I should have worn socks.

The plane is still bumpy and my neck is beginning to ache a little bit from holding my head off the back of my seat. Gotta watch out for those scalp crabs.

I thank you for traveling with me for a little while. I hope you didn't read this while flying. But if you did, I hope you land safely, still in possession of all of your toenails.