By Paul Blase
As I took off from Charleston International Airport in South Carolina this morning, I experienced a feeling that has become all too common in recent years – fear. I’m not afraid of flying, but I suppose the feeling is akin to a game of craps. For those who are not familiar, “crapping out” is the term used when a player rolls a 2, 3, or 12 during a game. I’m not here to teach you how to play, but understand that it is a game of streaks. When the person shooting the dice is on, there’s no better place to be. However, circling back to the analogy, all good things must come to an end. The streak ends, people stop making money, and eventually the shooter’s turn is over. Mathematically, that is true in craps and in life.
I may not travel as much as hot-shot businessmen who are seemingly gone 200 days a year for work. However, it is fair to say that I travel much more frequently than the average American, and much of that is done by air. Hell, I’m about 2-3 plane trips away from Mosaic (elite) status with JetBlue. I won’t reach that, though, as we have one week left in the calendar year. That being said, let us crunch the numbers. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) states that the odds of dying in an airplane crash are roughly 1 in 294 million. To put that into perspective, winning the lottery is 1 in 292 million, getting struck by lightning is about 1 in 1.2 million, finding a four-leaf clover is about 1 in 10,000, and dying in a car accident comes in around 1 in 107.
Conservatively, I’d say I have taken between 150 and 200 flights in my life. With my college education being in finance, I’ll be the first one to tell you that you have to, statistically speaking, look at it all as individual events. That is unless you are riding in the same aircraft each time. However, going back to the casino analogy, if you play the same number on a roulette table every single time, you’re bound to hit it eventually. Same thing goes with side bets at a blackjack table. If you play it, play it every time. Your chances decrease exponentially if you try to cherry pick those individual events. After all, that’s also how you win 50/50 raffles – more tickets mean a better chance of getting the prize, although I’d hardly consider death a prize without delving into some philosophic or theistic rant.
Alas, this is not a refresher on any statistics course you may or may not have taken. This is just a trip into my brain, worrying at every single noise, shake, or vibration. Fearful of losing everything; becoming ever more cognizant of the frailty of life. In large part, this is due to becoming a father.
My son, Mikey, has given me a newfound purpose in life. It has not been easy. A very frustrating relationship with his mother, my ex-fiancé, kept me from him during his birth and through the first 3 months of his life. Not because I didn’t want to, but because some people and their families unfortunately feel that the best way to hurt someone is through their common children. Oftentimes, the judicial system offers little to no recourse, especially for fathers. There have been days where I felt that I just couldn’t keep fighting my depression and perceived lack of self-worth. That’s the funny thing about depression. The things that cause your depression are not always your fault, but your brain cannot differentiate that. It feels like it’s your fault.
But the moments that I spend with Mikey, the more I realize that it’s foolish to think that, and the more I realize I have so much to live for, so much more to accomplish. I can’t wait to see him grow into the amazing man I know he will be, and that’s what makes me so leery when doing things that I normally would have never thought twice about. It’s the reason my heart races when I hear the turbines whine, when I hear the plane’s frame shake, or even when I see someone acting shady in public.
I have a lot to lose these days. I’ve always had a lot to lose as a younger man, a whole future and life ahead of me. But now my son is my purpose in life. As I’ve stated in previous pieces, there is still so much left for me to do in this world. It will all become apparent in due time. However, the most important thing is that now, more than ever, I know I’m not invincible. I’m very much mortal.
I’m home for the holidays. I won’t be drinking and driving – not even a little bit. I probably won’t even be on the road on New Year’s Eve because there is no reason to be. I’ve completed 12 flights in 2021, and have traveled well over 25,000 miles by air and car. Instead of taking my 13th flight this year, I’ll be leaving on January 1st. My number was drawn the minute I purchased my flight. I might just play the Mega Millions Lottery as well. What are the odds of both happening?
I just hope I don’t crap out.