Many people have superstitions when they travel. That’s why you’ll rarely see a hotel with the 13th floor. I doubt there’s no place where people have more superstitions or rituals than when flying on an airplane. As passengers, we lack control of our situation, and you know that being 37,000 feet in the air isn’t something our bodies were designed for.
So people develop their own little habits when flying. We’re not talking about people who are afraid to fly, because there are ways to help them cope with their fears. There are plenty of superstitions or rituals, so that means there are plenty of people, like me, doing “something” to keep their mind and body occupied onboard a plane.
The Telegraph asked 1,894 people what type of superstitions they have when flying. The most common one is touching the outside of the plane when boarding. Just know that if you like to do that, so do 17% of the other people on board, so use your hand sanitizer once you get to your seat. Other people bring a good luck charm or stuffed animal with them or recite a prayer or mantra. These looked rather generic. My ritual doesn’t fit any of those categories. What else is out there?
I found a post from 2011 which had more things like what I was looking for:
That’s more like it. Kudos to the person who admitted to this. You make the rest of us feel better about ourselves.
I loved reading people tell of their superstitions & rituals, and the reasonings behind them. What we do to make our minds think that we have some level of control is fascinating to me.
As the plane begins the takeoff roll, I whirl my finger around in a small circle faster and faster as the plane accelerates down the runway,” the Troy, Mich., man, 62, said. “My thinking is that this will help keep the engines running as we prepare to climb into the air. Fortunately, I have not had a situation where this didn’t work—at least not yet.
In 1987, a Northwest airliner crashed at Detroit Metro (Airport), killing all aboard except for one child,” said Linda Ogden, 60, of Macomb Township, Mich. “The cause of the crash was determined to be the flaps and slats not being extended during takeoff. As a result, my silent mantra, as the plane is lumbering down the runway, is ‘flaps and slats, flaps and slats, flaps and slats.’
Years ago, Michael Konesko, 57, of Saginaw, Mich., started listening to Bonnie Raitt music on a Sony Walkman cassette while in the air. He now has an iPod, but his superstition still requires him to listen to Raitt.
“I listen to Bonnie as the first group of music, even before moving to other artists or even watching a movie,” he said. “I have never been on a plane that crashed while listening to her, so why risk it?”
While the post is almost a decade old, I found it to be a great read. Besides telling the passengers’ stories, it also has commentary from psychologists explaining why each of the behaviors might help a person relax.
Time for me to ‘fess up. I have my own ritual I do whenever I fly. When we start our takeoff roll, I start alternating between making fists with my toes and twiddling my thumbs. Ten each. Over and over until we’re off the ground and I feel comfortable that we’re on our way. Know why I do this? Die Hard.
I’d guess that the movie came out around the time I started traveling by myself. Flying away from home, alone, can be difficult. I needed something to calm me down and this was the first thing that popped into my head. I put my own little twist on it by doing it on the plane and added the hand motions for good measure.
For a while, instead of twiddling my thumbs, I made circles with my wrists. Sharon brought it to my attention that particular activity was potentially distracting to the other passengers, so I’ve adapted and now leave my hands in my lap while I twiddle away.
I was today years old when I learned that the advice from Die Hard is rooted in real science. Walking around barefoot grounds you and puts a person in a place where they trust their surroundings.
No matter what your superstitions are, remember that it is never acceptable to throw coins into an aircraft engine.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary