Congestion on a Plane… Don’t Do It


Do you know what’s terrifying?

Believing that your eardrums are about to explode.

Want to know what’s even more terrifying?

Believing that your eardrums are about to explode while on a plane, sitting next to a cute neuro doctor.

Sure, our conversation so far hadn’t been the greatest–

Him: *tinkering with the air flow knob*
Me: man, it’s really not working, is it?

–but to sabotage our potential relationship with a broken set of eardrums? Not even I could get over that hurdle.

I went to visit my grandparents in North Carolina just for the weekend. Unfortunately, my sinuses were all clogged up thanks to catching a sudden cold. Since I’ve never flown with a cold, I didn’t think it would be a problem.

As we took off, it wasn’t a problem at all. Just the usual change in pressure, the slight deafening of both ears. Nothing a good yawn couldn’t cure.

I even ordered water instead of the ginger ale I usually get because I wanted to show how healthy I am, drinking with my little pinky waving in the air. Doctors appreciate that, right?

It was when we were descending that I started to realize that my stuffy sinuses were going to be a problem.

Feeling the slight discomfort of being in a descending, 100-ton tube of metal, I yawned, accompanied with the familiar crunch from that one time that I yawned way too much and almost dislocated my jaw. Usually that clears up at least an ear, if not both.

This time, however, no dice. All around me, sounds were becoming more muted, the conversation about hair products in the row behind me sounded like it was coming from across the room. The pressure in my ears was creeping from uncomfortable to painful–and we had over 15,000 feet left to go!

My slumbering hypochondriac brain came to life. Oh my god. What if your eardrums EXPLODE? What if you can never hear again? And then you lose your sight too. What are you going to do with yourself? How will you find love?? Or a job? You’re gonna end up on the streets! 

Sweating, I tried to sit with the stillness of someone not imagining the rest of their life without one of their accustomed senses.

It was really getting painful now. Leaning against the window, I could see the beads of sweat on my forehead in my reflection. I probably looked like a crazy person, but at this point I didn’t care. I suddenly wished I knew more methods of popping my ears. I had so much time on the internet. Why couldn’t I have looked up something useful like that?

Maybe we were almost there. Maybe I could hold off until we landed.

The clouds parted and I saw how not close to landing we were.

And then inspiration struck. ENTs… the nose, ears, and throat are all connected! That’s why it’s all one doctor!

Without a care in the world with how this looked, I stuck two fingers up my nose and blew. (I couldn’t use the pinch method, see, because of my nose ring) With a great big squeak, my right ear stabilized. I blinked, completely surprised that my BS idea, rooted in a random thought, worked.

I sighed in relief and wiped the sweat off my face. When my heart rate normalized, I snuck a look to my left to see if cute neuro doctor had noticed my tiny dilemma. It couldn’t have been too bad, could it? He was staring pointedly ahead.

I was brainstorming for something clever to say before we disembarked when I looked down and spotted a silver band around his ring finger.

And that’s how a descending plane ruined my potential relationship with a neuro doctor.

Oh, and those “Earplanes” things don’t work at all. I still had to rely on my brilliant new method to survive the flight home. Consumerism: 0 Michelle: 1.

Some photos from visiting the grandparents:

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  • Jordan Beck Wagner

    Congestion on a flight is the WORST!!! I had it coming back from Vienna and my ear didn’t pop for OVER A DAY!!! Oh my goodness, it hurt so badly!!! Happy yours popped :)

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahaha I was so worried it hurt so much!! Mine didn’t pop for over a day either. Thanks :)

  • Kerri

    My ear hurt enough just flying in general, let alone if I was sick at the same time!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Yeah, it’s weird that I’m 24 and this was the first time I’ve experienced anything like this!

  • Camila @ AdventitiousViolet

    Oh my god I had anxiety just reading this – it’s never happened to me to fly while being really unwell so I’ve never had that – thank god! I think my similar hypochondriac brain would go down the same route.

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahaha it was terrifying!! But at least you know that there IS a cure ;)