Always Crashing In That Same Plane

When people talk about their dreams in their blogs, most of the time I roll my eyes and look away. I mean how much more solipsistic can you get than to think that anyone would be interested in reading about the ways your unconscious brain processes the dross of life? But every now and again dreams seem meaningful enough that you have to talk about them.

My dreams are almost always cinematic and narrative, and I have a handful of recurring themes in addition to my more usual and varied fare. This was another of my crashing airplane dreams, but this one represented an interesting evolution on the concept. Used to be, I’d dream about being helpless in a crash. Then I got to where I’d dream about being a passenger in the plane crashing, but at the last crucial second, I’d find myself outside the plane, watching it crash from a distance. Today, I was piloting the plane. From a passenger seat.

It was a jumbo jet, and in the dream it was good old long-dead airline North Central. I was sitting in row seven, on the aisle, and I had in my hands a little PSP or iPhone like remote control, by which I was piloting the plane. On a Parisian highway, but that’s neither here nor there. The point was, the road suddenly turned into a launch ramp, and I had fuck-all seconds to get the plane up to speed. Which I did. Success! Up the ramp we went and launched into the air, and there I was piloting the plane from my seat, seeing out the front only by way of what I was seeing on the screen of my little remote control thing. Then something went wrong. The plane pitched over, and instead of seeing blue skies and clouds on the screen, I saw the green and brown patchwork of a nose-dive into farmland.

My dreaming mind woke up enough to go — um, no. Would have been nice if I’d woken up enough to turn it into a sex dream with some random hot passenger, but at least I managed to restore the plane to level flight. So now I was back on level flight, and the plane was mated to a second jet like conjoined twins, with the nose of my plane intersecting the tail of theirs, so that my plane had no cockpit and shared cabin space with theirs. They had pilots. I was still flying mine with my remote control.

There was a shudder and a grinding noise, and a warning flashed on my screen. Passengers screamed, as my right engine destroyed itself. It came apart, shooting its inner workings out the back in a bright burst of flame.

I did the sensible thing, and went to get help from the real pilots of the other plane. What they determined was that their plane had to separate from mine, and I had to try to land mine. Which was undoubtedly going to be a nearly-uncontrolled landing. That is to say, a crash. We agreed to evacuate all the passengers from my plane to theirs first, before I made the attempt. In the dream I wondered briefly why I couldn’t just evacuate with the passengers, and we could let my pilotless, cockpitless, damaged plane crash empty. But of course it was going to fall on people on the ground, which wasn’t an acceptable outcome.

I also wondered, briefly, why I had to do it myself. The other plane had two trained pilots, why couldn’t one of them stay and help me? Or better yet, take my place? But it was my responsibility. My plane. The other pilots told me they thought I could do it. They wished me luck and bid me adieu. Our planes separated, and there I was, with the wind rushing around me, holding my remote control and attempting to crash-land this crippled jet. I was terrified, but also something else. Calm. Courageous. I stood in the aisle and guided the plane as best I could, hoping for success, braced for failure.

I woke up before the plane hit the ground.

As I drowsed, I drifted in and out of a continuation: I had succeeded. I crashed cleanly on a runway, and firefighters were there to put out the flames and free me from the wreckage. Alive.

The thing I’m struck with here is agency. If these crashing plane dreams are some kind of metaphor for anxiety and feeling out of control, then wow this is a huge change. It’s still a complex piece of broken machinery that I don’t know how to control, but there are guides (the other pilots) who believe I can do it. There are people (the passengers and people on the ground) who my actions can affect. People I can save. And there is a heroic core of me that doesn’t flee the crashing plane, but takes on the terrible responsibility and makes an effort to salvage the situation, to avert impending disaster.

Almost makes me feel proud of myself.

crash landing in Germany

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~ by Nezu on 9 February 2010.

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