Dabe Alan

Claustrophobia, drugs, and hoarding games: the terror of a 16 hour flight

Claustrophobia, drugs, and hoarding games: the terror of a 16 hour flight

Being claustrophobic isn’t about the closed-in spaces, not really. If you put me in a small wooden box and then allowed me to open the door at any point? I could be in there for hours, sitting happily and enjoying the quiet and dark. At night I like my blankets heavy, and I prefer when they block out all the ambient light. Sometimes I pull them over my head and pretend to be inside a tiny space ship. Closed-in spaces themselves aren’t a big deal.

What’s scary is the idea that you might not be able to leave the environment, even if you wanted to. Even if you feel like you had to. Pound a nail into that wooden box and suddenly it’s a coffin. Have someone hold down that blanket and it feels like a tomb. You begin to sweat. The animal part of your brain takes over, and you try to keep from screaming. It’s not about the lack of mobility, it’s about the lack of control.

That’s why I’m buying all the games I can for the 16 hour flight to Australia.

Hoarding entertainment

This is what my carry-on bag is going to look like, if you can imagine it. A Macbook Air with an extended battery, and a back up, external battery. A second PC laptop, for gaming. A PlayStation Vita. A Nintendo 3DS. An iPad and iPhone, both stocked with games. A stack of books and magazines. I live with an irrational fear that I’ll run out of inflight entertainment and will have to just stare out the window, completely aware of the fact that I’m trapped.

The flights that have the TVs built into the back of the seats, and provide movies and TV shows throughout the flight? They are my best friend. They make me feel like an alcoholic house-sitting somewhere that has a well-stocked bar. They make me feel safe.

Part of this comes with the job. For more than ten hours a day I’m looking at a screen, or multiple screens, and going through the day’s e-mail, press releases, blog posts, games I’m playing, games I should be playing, trailers being released, interviews being conducted, interactions with PR asking about review or preview code, making sure the systems are running, scheduling the next event… I don’t know how to deal with myself unless I’m taking in at least one stream of data constantly, and preferably two or three. I can watch TV while I’m watching a movie. I listen to music while reading books. I write while I play games.

During the day it just feels like swimming along with the river, and I’m fine. But during a plane ride, when those streams have the possibility of drying to a trickle? That’s when I get the shakes. Sometimes the best way to deal with that feeling of impending panic is to buy yet another extended battery for a gaming system.

Yesterday I looked at my pile of laptops, video games, books, magazines, batteries, and a mounting bill for new downloads and it still didn’t feel like enough. You can get drugs from your doctor easily enough for a flight that long, and soon I had a few valium in my pocket, just in case I began to feel out of control.

I had asked about Ambien, but apparently people have unpredictable reactions to the drug, and that’s bad news in an enclosed space. The idea made my fear even worse, although the idea of taking a pill, sleeping through the flight, and waking up when we landed was attractive. It felt like it would a cheat code for life.

But instead I'll be sure to stay hydrated, walk the cabin every few hours to stretch my legs, and watch my batteries closely. Throughout the flight I'll be moving between the laptops, the Vita, and the 3DS, controlling my breathing, hoping that I've brought enough games and power to make it through.