Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dr. Commonsense, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Airplane Bathrooms

We all have weird, neurotic things about personalities.  I've been conscious of mine ever since childhood, and while I've outgrown many of those wacky things about me, there are a couple that have stuck with me to this day.  There's a point I have here which I'll get into in a bit, but I have to jump forwards and then back up later on to add context.

My therapist and I have been working largely on my various anxieties the last couple months.  We've made enough progress that we had recently agreed to meet twice a month now instead of weekly.  Obviously if the sky was falling on me for some reason, I could call her and schedule an appointment outside of our routine, but I don't expect that to happen.

Anyway, I had a huge anxiety over an invite I had accepted to attend a bachelor party in Vegas the weekend after my birthday in August.  I've been invited to go on all sorts of trips and getaways in the past, and while the invites were always appreciated, I never felt comfortable accepting.  I was mostly concerned about affording the cost of the trip, and how things like airfare and hotel rooms would be expensive, but there's also food and drink to add on top.  That doesn't even include any kinds of souvenirs I might want to buy while on a vacation.

I hated having to pass up those opportunities because of concern over affording them, but I felt it was a necessary evil.  Now that I'm living more comfortably and have some money saved up, I could accept the invite to go on this bachelor party.  Here's where my neurotic self came into play though: When the time finally came last week to book the flight for the trip, I suddenly found myself getting gun shy about it.

I was pricing flights and found a reasonable cost on Southwest, but when it came time to hit the "purchase" button on the computer screen, I was clamming up.  It was pure commitment phobia; I had no problem telling friends and family that I was going on this trip over the last few weeks.  In fact, I was excited to talk about it.  But when the moment of truth came along, I felt my stomach turning itself in knots over truly crossing the point of no return.

My thoughts were going in several directions.  I thought about whether it would be a good investment of my money to go on this trip at all in the first place.  I thought about needing new tires for my car in the next few months, and whether the money used on this trip would be better served there.  I thought about whether I'd really enjoy myself out there, and whether I might ruin the trip for others if I wanted to call it a night while the rest of the guys wanted to keep partying (yes, I am completely aware this is Vegas I'm talking about and how it's virtually impossible to be bored out there).

And if you thought that last paragraph was loony, you haven't seen anything yet.

I had intentionally booked my flight to make sure I had a layover.  You read that right; I wanted a layover.  When I told the bachelor and my buddy also going on the trip about this, they thought I was the craziest man alive.  I have a very specific reason why I want a layover on a long flight, and that is my issue with the bathrooms on a plane.

I hate the bathrooms on planes for a number of reasons.  While claustrophobia has never bothered me to any great degree, the sheer size (or lack thereof) in those airplane bathrooms bothers me.  I'm 6'1, so I'm a fairly large guy, and I don't squeeze into tight spots very well.  The bigger problem I have with those bathrooms is the hygiene.  Let's not kid ourselves; airplane bathrooms stink.  I've never used one on any flight I've ever taken, and it's in large part to the issue over how reliable those toilets are.  I don't trust them, and I don't want to be stuck in there if I can avoid it.

Without going into too many more gory details, I will say that I prefer long flights with a layover so I can leave a plane for a little while and avoid the airplane bathroom in the process.  I did it when I went to Phoenix several years ago, as well as when I went to the Caymans with my last girlfriend two years ago.  I'm well aware this issue prohibits me from going to some pretty exotic places in this world, namely Europe.

By now it sounds like I might need to be put in a strait jacket and hauled off to Sheppard Pratt.  I talked about all this with my therapist last night during our session, and she talked some sense into me.  Since I was aware of how nutty I sounded, I was probably making her job a little easier in the process.  I think my issue with airplane bathrooms is mostly a fear of the unknown - whether the toilet will work properly in there.

Sheesh, the more I write about this, the crazier I think I sound.

The short version of the advice my therapist had for me was, "CALM DOWN."  The sky would not fall if I did in fact have to use the restroom on an airplane, especially if I did find myself flying somewhere that wouldn't allow for a layover.  She even had recommended taking a Xanax the day prior to my flight so I can be more relaxed on the plane.

A little common sense shockingly can go a long way.  My therapist also asked me about what I do to vent stress, and I mentioned this blog, as well as going to the gym that I had recently joined.  She thought both ideas were healthy venues to let loose some stress, particularly the gym.  I've known for a long, long time that I need to get in better shape, so I'm trying to stick to my schedule of at least 3-4 gym visits a week.

Maybe that's where I've gone wrong for so long.  Like I said at the beginning here, everybody has something neurotic about themselves, and it's just a question of how they handle the crazy side.  There are clean freaks, there are tightwads when it comes to money, and there are food snobs, just to name a few kinds.  My neurosis happens to be bathrooms.  It's a sensitive subject, sure, and it's one that not many people are comfortable talking about.  I just never did much to really address how to vent stress or anxiety of any kind - bathrooms or otherwise.  Now that I have a couple good forms of release, I'll be able to enjoy my trip to Vegas this summer.

Funny how the whole idea of a fun trip for a bachelor party got lost in all that.  That's something worth thinking about too.