It began when the flight attendant noticed that I was looking a little, shall we say, maniacal. I guess all that shaking and crying was a dead giveaway. She asked if everything was okay. I told her, “I get a bit claustrophobic, but I should be fine,” and gave her a pleading look. She nodded. Apparently, flight attendants have met many, many claustrophobic people. She brought me a glass of water and asked, “Would you like to speak with the captain?” I said, Sure, why not
I figured that making a relationship with the person in charge couldn’t hurt. As she walked away to get him, I realized even in my panic that what she really wanted was for the captain to take his own read on my sanity. I guessed she thought there was a chance I could make this a very long flight for everyone.
The captain came out of the cockpit and said, “So, I hear you’re a little afraid to fly.” I nodded. “Well, don’t you worry about a thing,” he said. He told me his name was Captain Denny Flanagan and the flight attendant’s name was Marie. Between them they had thirty-plus years of flight experience and I was in good hands. “We’ve got a beautiful day for flying, and I promise I’ll get you to Denver safely,” he said. I felt like a six-year-old who had just been told by her father that he had frightened the boogeyman off but would sit by the bed all night long, just in case. I relaxed.
Midway through the trip, the flight attendant walked over to check on me. She handed me a business card and said, “This is from the captain.” On the back was a note: “Hope everything is fine. If I can be of further help, don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for your trust and belief in me. Capt. Denny Flanagan.” Well, at this point, I never wanted to get off the plane. It seemed like the safest place on earth to be. I slipped Captain Denny’s card in my date book, where it remains. I’ve looked at it countless times on many flights since then, and each time it’s helped ward off a panic attack. For me, “Captain Denny” has become a code phrase for “right now, everything is okay.”