I have what I believe is a ludicrous fear: When I walk over a sidewalk grating, I worry about suddenly becoming very thin and slipping through the gaps and disappearing forever.
Happily, I live in a city where this isn't a regular occurrence, but it sits there in the back of my mind, waiting to twist my Amygdala in knots, making rational thought all but impossible. However, there are plenty more where that one came from, so I do my very best when I trip over one of these irrational concerns.
Now I'm reading more about Joseph Emerson, the Alaska Airlines pilot who decided to try and crash the plane he was riding home on in October. Captain Emerson wasn't doing the actual flying at the time. He was just riding up front in the cockpit in the jump seat, hitching back to San Francisco. After the plane reached cruising altitude, he began to appear agitated. He tossed off his headset and announced, "I'm not okay." That was when he reached up and yanked the plane’s two fire-suppression handles, the ones designed to cut the fuel supply and shut down both engines. The other pilots were able to subdue Captain Joe and keep him from causing the plane to plummet to earth. They diverted the flight to a not-so-abrupt landing in Portland, Oregon.
Just a slight inconvenience.
For his part, former Captain Emerson says he was desperate to awaken from a hallucinogenic state that had consumed him since taking psychedelic mushrooms two days earlier, during a weekend getaway with friends to commemorate the death of his best friend. “I thought it would stop both engines, the plane would start to head towards a crash, and I would wake up.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded pilots dealing with depression or other mental diagnoses, with policies so strict that the decision to seek psychiatric help or a prescription for standard antidepressant medication is enough to trigger a suspension of their flight eligibility. This means that pilots who are feeling more than just a little blue need to keep their mouths shut to avoid being unemployed. It would seem former Captain Emerson chose to self-medicate.
Which raises the question: Who's flying the plane you're on this holiday weekend? And stay away from those grates.