MJE likes to peruse the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders periodically to determine whether I have acquired any new professionally sanctioned psychiatric conditions. I try to remain abreast of the latest and greatest in this area, but just to fully ensure that I have updated my psychiatric disorder content page in a fair and balanced manner I cross reference webmd for symptoms and meds to alleviate them. MJE feels that multi-sourcing disorders, psychiatric or otherwise is always the most prudent path.
In my latest review MJE found two new disorders with which I am undeniably stricken. The first:
PTSD 2.0 (post travel stress disorder)
Symptoms: anxiety, depression, hypersensitivity to odors, claustrophobia, rashes about the groin area, acrophobia, nut or pretzel allergies, coprastasophobia, diarrhea, numbness in the lower legs, unusual bruising of the elbows and fore arms, shortness of breath, anger management issues, and occasional hair loss, or rarely, an unusual development of freckles over the buttocks, pudenda and or (please respect the transgenders among us) scrota.
PPTSD Pre and Post Travel Stress Disorder (a rare acute form of PTSD 2.0)
Symptoms: serious physical and or mental trauma including but not limited to: broken bones, bruises, contusions, concussion, dental damage, abrasions, loss of dignity, intense fear of large armed men wearing black skirts, blue jeans and sketchy security badges, heightened notoriety and loss of income due to unmet professional commitments. Additionally, you may incur large medical, legal and public relations related expenses.
Not to fear monger, but MJE believes that any person, or giant rabbit, who has had to resort to traveling via a seventy five ton cylinder full of compressed oxygen stuffed cheek by jowl with masses of other nominally humanoid species traveling at 500-600 mph at 30,000 feet above the earth for any period of time probably suffers from ptsd 2.0. However, this syndrome begins to present itself well before boarding the aircraft or even entering the airport terminal, when you try to park your car and are confronted with the exorbitant airport parking lot fees. Once you enter, you are for all intents and purposes, simply a very large lab rat in a dark circular maze which could aptly be described, in the immortal words of matthew arnold in his incredibly depressing opus, dover beach …
” for the world (or parking tower), which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused (car) alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies (of minivans) clash by night. “
From there you have a miles long trek, dragging your luggage, backpacks, electronic gear, offspring and their attendant junk to reach the gleaming, welcoming beacon of light in the far distance: the terminal. Alas no respite there. The doors whoosh open and you are presented with a teeming mass of ill dressed, unruly, rude, pushy, lost, bad tempered people and their detritus through which you must muscle your way to finally reach: “the kiosk.” If you are able to successfully interact with that bot, you then must slowly shuffle like along like a homeless person with all of your worldly possessions in tow in a disney world worthy line covering the entire square footage of the your airline’s allotted space. At long last you reach a disgruntled airport agent who demands your tickets, identification, first grammar school, mother’s maiden name, best friend from childhood, favorite song, automobile vin number and the date you lost your virginity, with whom and where. In a family feud type gaggle you put your heads together and hope to come up with the correct responses (except for the virginity thing which you and your spouse or partner are permitted to write down separately on small scraps of paper and slip to the agent.)
If by some miracle you clear that hurdle you are released to try to find your way to the security area. Your destination is the tail end of another long snaking line of increasingly fatigued, frustrated and irritated travelers. An hour or so later, your group of already weary companions reach the bored bully of a security officer who demands identification, tickets, high school gpa, primary health care provider and whether you eat pork. If you manage to get past that humorless blue clad clod you then must speed walk as fast as is possible to a stack of plastic bins into which you are required to deposit your shoes, belt, jacket, electronic devices, infants in car seats, prosthetic limbs, pacemakers, breast implants and anything else which you might hold dear. As you watch your existence get slowly sucked into the dark lair of the eye of sauron who sees all including that 4.3 oz bottle of volumizing shampoo you forgot to pitch, you start to feel your life force start to seep onto the filthy floor on which you stand in bare feet. Then the final frontier, the full body scanner. You are nearing the end of the beginning. Beeeeep…goes the alarm and you are whisked off to be given a complete physical in full view of everyone by some blue rubber gloved vogon. After you have been relieved of your iud and nipple ring you are released to descend into the fifth circle of hell via an escalator that is so long you literally cannot see the bottom. Then you wait for “the train”, which will transport you to a distant galaxy far far away known as terminal b.
Now you have a completely new alien terrain to navigate: which way to gate 843, where are the bathrooms, do you have time to buy a neck pillow and where’s the cinnabon place. Those are all deeply personal decisions and far be it for MJE to tell you how to make your life choices but just so you know, if you happen to arrive at the gate 61 minutes prior to scheduled (but highly improbable) departure time you will be denied boarding and must go back to square one. If you do manage to get to the gate in time you will need to break up the herd as there are only single seats available in the waiting area because many passengers choose to let their luggage chillax in seats designated for paying passengers. MJE advises to just let that pass, you may win in the short term but the probability that you will be in the middle seat next to this person are calculated to be around 97.3%.
After an interminable wait, during which you are relentlessly subjected to cnn breaking news, the gate agent announces the boarding call. Attractive people, medallion members, people with screaming infants, people in wheelchairs, people who look like they are at the breaking point, and other random passengers are allowed to board first. Then you board by seat section, and under no circumstances should you try to deviate from the boarding order because you will go to the end of the line and probably get bumped from the flight and rendered unconscious. You finally make it to the jetway! Inexplicably, people are at a total and complete standstill like those ranks of ancient terra cotta chinese warriors you see in national geographic. However, once you make it onto the plane it becomes crystal clear. The smug jerks in first class are sipping mimosas but beyond the dividing curtain to steerage it is like black friday at walmart.
People stumble down the aisle thoughtlessly twacking every previously seated passenger with their bulky baggage, which they try to in vain to cram into overheads bins. They then stumble around searching for their seats like they are lost in a sand storm (Heads up: the seat rows are numbered 15-34, each with six seats labeled a to f. You are not the minotaur wandering around in the knossos labyrinth, for god’s sake.) You finally get to your 14” wide seat where there is no storage space left so you have your carry on bag, purse or briefcase or both, computer case, etc. jammed between your legs, only partially under the seat in front of you. When the flight attendant comes by to inspect things before takeoff you press your knees together like a seventh grader trying to ward off a sophomore in the back seat of his dad’s car. If she tweeks to that baggage storage violation of faa rule 8047210563391526.0863, section a. part g, you can kiss your stuff goodbye, it’s going down, even if your life saving meds are in it.
People finally settle in, the cabin doors close and you heave a way too premature sigh of relief…because out come savory containers of braised curried goat and cauliflower, kung pao pidgeon, cabbage florentine with chick peas and whatever other foul smelling delicacy purchased in the food court prior to boarding, followed by the inevitable miasma of intestinal distress.
You are of course seated at the very back of the plane next to the galley. You hear the flight attendants loading up the drinks cart with cold refreshments, ice and peanuts and you look forward to enjoying a coca cola product and a 1.5 oz bag of nibbles. Out of the corner of your eye you see the cart, you are so close you can touch it….but like a mirage, it fades away toward the front of the plane and you realize that you will not see it again until it whisks by when the pilot comes on the intercom to say they are starting the final descent and are suspending cabin service.
By this point you have fully surrendered yourself to the slings and arrows of outrageous air travel misfortune and sit like a zombie, undead but unable to move. You now no longer have any idea where you were headed or why. Yet there is no rest for the weary, the cleaning crew is coming and you have to get to carousel 10f before someone makes off with what’s left of your baggage and your dignity.
MJE will cover in a later post ptsd 3.0 (president trump stress disorder). It is not only far more serious but potentially fatal.