I know, I’ve been threatening to write about this forever, even though fear of flying is probably even less common among my audience than paying with a debit card. I mention it a lot in my posts, but there’s a reason for that: not a day goes by that I don’t deal with my fear of flying. It’s not just on days I have to fly. It’s any day where it’s cloudy (the clouds are probably turbulent), or when I see a plane in the sky (if I were on the plane, I’d be really anxious), or if I’m just anxious about nothing in particular, my asshole of a mind will focus that feeling on an upcoming flight just to be a jerk. As I’ve said before, I’ve never worked harder on anything than on taming my fear of flying (I hesitate to say “overcoming,” since I’m not sure it will ever go away completely). This post is about where the fear came from, and what I’ve done to address it. Maybe it will be helpful to some people who deal with similar issues. If you don’t have a fear of flying and don’t really care about mine, go ahead and sit this one out and wait for my next gem to drop in a couple days.
My fear of flying has two main prongs. The first (which I know I have mentioned before) was a freak accident in which I almost died. See, most people have a little voice in their head that says, “you aren’t about to die it this very moment.” I used to have that voice, but I don’t anymore. Irrationally or not, being high up in the air makes me feel vulnerable to death, and since my accident, it’s very hard to talk myself out of that feeling.
The second prong was a flight from New Zealand to San Francisco that was really, really rough. Rough enough that the flight attendants told passengers it was the worst Pacific crossing they’d ever been through (and I’d assume Air New Zealand flight attendants have a few Pacific crossings under their belts). Passengers were screaming, some were barfing, and it went on for hours. I’ve never been so scared, since I was firmly convinced that I was going to die. Not knowing anything about turbulence, I was sure that the pilots were covered in flop sweat, white knuckling the stick up in the cockpit and praying to the gods of flight to spare them the catastrophe that I was sure was about to befall us.
Flying had been tough after the accident, but after the New Zealand flight, all hell broke loose. To be honest, I didn’t realize how bad it was going to be until the next time I flew. As soon as the wheels left the ground, the panic hit me like a ton of bricks, and all the little coping mechanisms I had developed haphazardly over the years fell completely flat. I spent the flight (a short hop to Salt Lake City) hyperventilating, and I realized that this was going to be a thing from now on.
I got back home after an equally difficult return flight and started the process of figuring out how I would ever get back on a plane. I talked to a psychoanalyst who said, “Not only am I confident, I’m certain that you’ll eventually be able to fly again without taking medication.” He may as well have told he that he was also certain I’d grow wings out of my ass and fly around under my own power. Just the thought of having to fly would set off an anxiety attack; most nights I would dream that I was dying in a plane crash. I started researching Amtrak, figuring I may as well just give up on flying ever again.
Here’s the thing, though: even then, I knew I’d have to fly again, and I wanted to be able to. If you’ve ever told a person any variation of, “You’re more likely to die on the way to the airport; flying is safer than driving,” you don’t get how phobias work. Nobody wants to have a phobia. People who are nervous flyers aren’t just ill-informed morons who just need to hear from you about how safe flying is before they can comfortably get on a plane again.
Having said that, it’s true that lack of information plays a major part in flying anxiety. The catch is that you have to internalize the information, and someone condescendingly telling you that your fear is stupid has the opposite effect. A common element of flying anxiety is to not understand why everyone else on the plane isn’t equally terrified (which creates a feedback loop and only ramps up the panic). Those unhelpful admonishments that usually start with “Well, you know…” or “You do realize that…” only reinforce the fear that I’m the only one who understands the gravity of the situation, and that just makes it worse for me.
Patrick Smith of AskThePilot.com is probably the best resource I can think of for nervous flyers. And while his website is good, his book is even better – particularly the chapter on turbulence. Before reading it, I legitimately didn’t know that turbulence didn’t pose a danger to planes. And you’d be surprised how many people I tell about the non-danger of turbulence who also had no idea. I mean, when your body is getting thrown around like you’re on a roller-coaster, it’s only natural to think that what’s happening isn’t normal.
What I needed to internalize went far beyond “flying is safe.” It was that the specific things that I felt were unsafe – the wings visibly flapping in the jet stream, the steep drops, the loud noises a 777 makes when it’s getting battered by wind – were in fact completely normal. I watched videos of wing flexibility tests, and I devoured as many articles as I could by pilots and other experts about why turbulence at altitude isn’t going to crash a plane. I learned that pilots often engage autopilot during turbulence to limit any overcorrection and then sit back to ride it out just like the passengers (well, as much as a pilot ever “sits back” while flying a plane).
It took maybe 10 flights before I started to feel existentially at ease (in other words, that I wasn’t about to die). Just being up in the air started to feel normal, rather than it feeling like a precarious, perilous position to maintain for hours on end. That was a big hurdle to get over, but it only solved part of the problem.
Here’s the major issue: I’m no longer scared that turbulence is going to crash the plane and kill me, but the physical sensation of rough air (let’s say moderate or worse) makes me feel like I’m dying, which causes a panic attack. It’s an input that operates on a physical level, and it’s so disruptive to my nervous system that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t regulate my thoughts until the ride has smoothed out and those inputs have passed.
There’s a technique in cognitive behavioral therapy called “downward arrow,” where you pick a situation that causes anxiety, and you drill down all the way to the very specific thing about that situation that makes you feel scared. (For example, “Movie theater” –> “Being in a crowd in the dark” –> “Not being able to get out of the crowd in the dark” –> “Being vulnerable to physical harm” –> “A shooter coming into the theater and killing me.”) Once you have the specific thing you’re scared of, the therapeutic process can zero in and more effectively address the main source of the anxiety.
For my issues with turbulence, the downward arrow exercise didn’t point to any fear of external harm; at its core, my issues with turbulence are that it scares me out of my mind. Anyone who has suffered a panic attack knows how horrible it is. For someone who hasn’t experienced it, I liken it to sticking your finger into an electrical socket, except instead of your finger, it’s your lungs and brain. There’s literally no worse feeling I have ever experienced, and yes that includes the accident during which I was buried alive and almost crushed to death.
So what do you do when you have fully internalized that flying is completely safe and that turbulence is completely benign, but the physical experience of turbulence sends you into a panic even as you remain aware that you aren’t in any danger? I have spent the past seven years trying to answer this question. (One other way I try to explain this to people is to substitute the mental anguish of panic with physical pain. What if turbulence invariably caused your leg to feel like it was caught in a bear trap? Would you be nervous about turbulence then?)
First, let’s get this out of the way: I take drugs to help me fly, and they work. Some fear of flying programs discourage this, since the most common drugs (benzodiazepines) dull your ability to react, which can limit their effectiveness. Brain chemistry is very personal, so what works for me may not work for you. That said, a lot of “drug-free” fear of flying approaches get almost masochistic in their resistance to any palliative avenues of self-care. Sure, drugs may be the junk food to exposure therapy’s broccoli, but if the point is to convince yourself that you can get through a flight, then getting the fuck through the flight is a necessary first step.
Exposure therapy also has the risk of re-traumatization – especially in a theater like air travel, where progressive exposure is really difficult. Sure you can tiptoe through the first steps (start by driving to the airport and going home, then try going inside and leaving right away, then try clearing security and leaving, etc.), but once the plane is off the ground, you’re locked in to whatever happens until it lands again. An unexpectedly rough flight may shake everything loose and make you realize you can handle it just fine, but it risks having the opposite effect. This is why most forms of exposure therapy are done under pretty close supervision by a therapist – yet another difficulty when trying to apply exposure therapy to commercial flying.
I take lorazepam (the generic form of Ativan), although klonopin, xanax, and valium can be equally effective for people, depending on an individual’s particular brain chemistry. When I first started flying again, I took huge doses of lorazepam – big enough that if I took a dose that size on an average Saturday, I’d be nearly comatose for hours. However, the amount of anxiety produced by flying made me barely feel like I was on anything. At first, this created issues as I learned how to regulate my dosage… like the time I kept popping pills on the way from San Francisco to Boston because “I didn’t feel anything,” and then got lost in Logan airport looking for baggage claim until a cashier at Au Bon Pain made me sit down at an open table because I was all glassy-eyed and confused. Good times.
In recent years, I have made a lot of progress. I’ve done a bunch of flights in the last couple years without any meds at all (turns out that psych was right after all), but I usually take a small dose, just to put myself at ease a little more. I know I can get through a flight without taking anything, but it’s a constant struggle to defuse the tension that builds up, and a minimal amount of lorazepam helps me slow my heart rate and relax without affecting my alertness or coordination. I have even been through some rough stuff and come out just fine – most notably a drug-free flight into Seattle during a storm complete with major roller-coaster drops on the descent. It wasn’t fun, and I still found it terrifying, but I got through it.
Here are some ways that I have learned to cope over the years… First, the challenge is always to keep your thoughts from running away unchecked. Whether it’s turbulence or something else, there is a definite line between physical discomfort and panic. One of the keys to being able to tame my overall anxiety around flying was to understand that feeling uncomfortable during turbulence is one sensation, a panic attack is another, and the two don’t have to be linked. I can go through a rough patch and think “wow, this sucks and I feel awful,” without thinking “I’m completely fucked and oh shit oh shit oh shit.” One way to get to this point is to take medication designed specifically to prevent it from happening. We’ve been over this already.
Music is a big one too. I have two default playlists for turbulence – one is very slow, heavy, droning music by bands that coincidentally start with the letter H (Hum, Harvey Milk, Helmet), and the other is super up-tempo fist-pumping stuff like Andrew WK. Depending on my mood and the intensity of the bumps, I’ll pick one of the playlists and make it the soundtrack, as if rocking and rolling through the air is a thing that I’m doing for fun. It’s not that I use music just to calm down, or to take my mind off the turbulence. Instead, the music integrates with the experience of flying through rough air and gives me something to focus on, centering my thoughts and keeping them from spiraling quickly into fear and panic.
Writing is a major component of my anxiety management as well. Maybe the most important component, actually – even moreso than drugs. I realized on my first flight after the phobia started how powerful a tool writing can be when it comes to keeping my mind from racing. I took my seat after boarding and immediately started veering into pre-panic anxiety, so I pulled out a notebook and wrote down some of the motivational stuff I had drilled into my mind in the months leading up to the flight. I quickly realized that it didn’t even really matter what I was writing – the physical act of writing slowed my thoughts down to the speed of my pencil on the paper, which prevented my thought process from going off a cliff. Going back and reading my old notebooks, there are times when I would fill up entire pages with stuff like, “Okay WOW IT’S BUMPY but I’m fine, just gotta keep writing, BIG BUMPS WHOA, it sucks but I’m fine, writing writing, that’s what I’m doing, feeling okay even in bumps, writing is good…” It seems ridiculous in retrospect, but it worked, so that’s really all that matters.
Finally, it’s impossible to overstate the benefit of meditative breathing. I have read that it’s impossible to have a panic attack while practicing meditative breathing – I’ve never tested this, but I do know that focusing on breathing can stop a rising panic attack in its tracks. Panic attacks have a certain velocity, where everything seems to speed up – fast heart rate, racing thoughts, hyperventilation, sweating, and so on. Breathing is the one thing you can always control, though, and by slowing it way down and focusing intently on the in/out rhythm, everything else starts to settle back down too.
Realizing that you can arrest a panic attack’s momentum is hugely valuable, since so much of the fear around panic anxiety is that when an attack strikes, there’s nothing you can do. It’s very comforting to know that the knife’s edge between panicking and not panicking isn’t so much a knife’s edge as a plateau that you can control with techniques as simple as breathing or writing.
The lack of control is a big issue for many people who have a fear of flying. This could either be the lack of control over the plane itself, or simply the lack of control over one’s situation (insofar as you’re stuck on a plane and can’t get off no matter what). However, what meditative breathing taught me is that I’m at least in control of my reaction to my surroundings. While I may not enjoy it, I can focus on dealing with the anxiety and pushing it away, or I can succumb to it and let myself roll headfirst into a panic attack. And that choice starts with my ability to regulate my breathing.
EDIT: After I published this post, I realized that I left out one additional technique that has been very helpful. Again, this may just be something that works for me, but I figured it was still worth mentioning. I call it “rebound thoughts,” and it’s basically a catalog of the thoughts that accompany rising anxiety paired with the exact opposite thought that instantly refutes it. By studying these in advance, I can beat back the fearful thoughts as they start, rather than letting them build until I’m having panic attack. Here’s an example: probably one of the most reliable signals that I’m about to have a panic attack is that I start thinking, “get me off this plane.” The rebound thought there is: “Keep me on this plane!” To expand on that: “Keep me on this plane so I can keep challenging myself to encounter turbulence and prove to myself that I can manage this.” Another one is, “that last bump was fine, but if it keeps going or gets worse, I’m gonna lose it.” Rebounding: “that last bump was fine, and if I can do one, I can do a hundred – so bring it on and let me see how big of a bump I can handle!” I agree that this sometimes veers into motivational speaking territory, but in the moment, psyching yourself up is one of the most important things you can do to keep fear and anxiety at bay. After all, panic is just your fight or flight response misfiring, which creates a surge of adrenaline. If you can repurpose that adrenaline surge into making you feel like you’re having an exhilarating experience as opposed to a terrifying one, you’re much less likely to panic.
In the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever get all the way to the point where I can say I’ve beaten my fear of flying. It’s more like back pain. Some flights are great, and I fly through turbulence as calm as if I were at home on the couch, and other ones are tense and shitty. The point, though, is that I always do it, even if it stresses me out. That’s why I say I have tamed my fear – I don’t let it dictate my choices or prevent me from seeing the world, but I do still wrestle with it constantly. I’m pretty sure that if I suddenly found myself in a job where I was flying a couple times a week routinely, the repeated and consistent exposure would finally get me to the point where I could fly without nervousness. That’s all hypothetical, though, since I don’t travel that much for work, and I don’t have the time or money to fly somewhere every weekend just for practice.
Still, without getting too didactic, have hope if this is something you also struggle with. It’s definitely possible to get to a place where flying is doable, and sometimes I even find it enjoyable. And let’s be clear that I love a lot of things about flying – in fact, I love pretty much everything about flying except for the physical feeling of flying. There’s nothing I’d like more than to be like the 75% of flyers for whom the worst thing about flying is the legroom… the people don’t care what the weather is doing, and who don’t bat an eyelid when the plane flies into a thunderstorm or over a mountain range. But even if I never get there, the fact that I can do it at all is still a pretty huge accomplishment, and the fact that I figured out how to do it in maximum comfort thanks to churning is the cherry on top.
I never got as bad feelings as you have had to deal with, but I had a 25 year “period” where, to one degree or another, I hated flying. As in, took Amtrak from PHL-ATL (great trip, by the way). This morning, coincidentally, I realized that on a flight I took yesterday I had barely noticed takeoff or landing. So I think I have come a long way. Not that any of this is relevant to your situation, but a bunch of things happened in series:
1. Look at the top of your website. I got a chance to go to Paris … a lot. I love Paris, and the more I went, the more I loved it. Paris cannot be reached by Amtrak (though I do daydream some time about that train the Chinese are thinking of building through Siberia and Alaska….)
2. Coming back from Paris one day, stumbled into a four-person (was with family) op-up to Business. God I miss you, USAirways! Not totally rational — not rational at all — but found that not only did I like Business, a lot (and this was without the lie-flat seats), I did not feel as scared in the front of the plane. They can’t kill me, I’m a swell. Maybe fewer scared co-passengers?
3. Rinse and repeat (plus love of money). So this was toward the start of the Great Recession (is that over now, by the way?) and there were a lot of great holes in the USAirways program. I mean, domestically, I would often get upgraded as a lowly Silver, and hitting Gold…. Anyhow, I had some skin in the status game, and started angling for trips. With F seats easier and easier domestically, my wife got more interested in travel. I also noticed that I was less worried with her on board. (It wasn’t that she wasn’t something of a scared flyer, but it gave me a role to pretend to [“all perfectly normal… these planes are designed to fly with just one engine … oh, that was a *wing* you say?]) Anyhow, you do anything over and over and over and over and ….
Good luck. Don’t listen to anyone about this (least of all me). Do what works for you.
Great comment, and thanks for posting all this. My first long-haul flight after “the flight” from NZ was to Paris. Well, more accurately it was to Oslo and then Paris on a cheap Norwegian premium fare right after they launched service to Oakland. It’s my favorite city in the world, and it meant a lot to be able to make it back there.
Love you, man!!!
First off, I bet that was pretty hard to write. So, congratulations on the courage to lay it all out there. Well done. Having read what you wrote previously about the balcony collapse, I figured that was going to be the bulk of the issue you were going to write about.
I should start off by disclosing I am a shrink, but one who never promises things like “I’m certain you’ll eventually be able to fly again without taking a prescription.” We CBT therapists call that “fortune telling.” And it’s a no-no.
Personally, I’ve had a couple experiences that parallel your experience, but are completely unique. No two people can or do share the same experience, in my opinion. First, when you mention the internal voice that tells us “you aren’t about to die at this moment” it reminded me of an experience I had about 30 years ago. (Damn, I’m old.)
I used to be a professional photographer, and for a time specialized in scammed some magazines into financing me to photograph auto racing and related photos. I had wrangled an invite to the opening of a new racetrack near where I live, owned by Roger Penske. There was going to be Indycar (CART) racing there. Roger had a bunch of his drivers there doing hot laps with the press. I got to do several “ride-alongs” with my then hero Rick Mears. So, there I am, hurtling down the straightaway at about 125 mph, riding right up against the rail going into the turn. Scared the shit out of me the first lap. Then, I figured “what are the chances of there being a headline in the paper tomorrow ‘Rick Mears dies in a fiery crash driving a press photographer around.’” Right, pretty much zero. What seemed risky and dangerous to me, he could probably do in his sleep. I was able to internalize that, and generalize it to other experiences.
The second “parallel” experience happened about 5 or 6 years before that. I was working in a darkroom in a photo studio (hey kids, look that up! We used to have to ‘instagram’ pictures in the dark, while playing with nasty chemicals). I have chronic asthma, and at that time it was pretty much uncontrolled. I had a horrible inhaler named “Isuprel” which I believe was about all that was available at the time. One day, working in the darkroom, I had an asthma attack, took a couple hits off the inhaler, and then, paradoxically, couldn’t freaking breath at all. It’s called, oddly enough, a “paradoxical reaction.” I’m in essentially complete darkness, unable to draw a breath, shout, call out, or do anything to get help. I was sure I was going to die, and it still, 35 years later, is clearly burned into my memory. This was my first, and absolutely worst ever-panic attack. I had a few more of those reactions, but I always knew I would be able to breathe again, although it seemed like hours until I could. This was all years before I returned to school for my psychology degrees, so I reflected on that panic experience differently when I learned what anxiety and panic are really about.
In my case, and I’m wondering if yours, I wasn’t really anxious about dying, I was scared shitless of the panic I experienced that first time. It’s for real. You’ve probably heard of “agoraphobia,” which most people think is a fear of leaving the house. It’s not; it’s literally “fear of fear.” A bit reductionist, but think of it as the fear that something will happen over which you have no control, and your panic will incapacitate or embarrass you. In my case, I was afraid of it happening in front of others, who would not help me, or be afraid of what was happening, or mocking of me.
With that in mind, I reread your post a few times, and made some notes. Standard disclaimer, we’ve never met, and I would NEVER be so bold as to ‘diagnose’ your symptoms, or tell you you’re wrong for feeling that way but….. There were a number of things you wrote that make me wonder.
• You mention after 10 or so flights you began to feel existentially at ease. But rough air made you “feel like you’re dying.”
• Your downward arrow, I suspect, worked better than you gave it credit for. That technique works only if it lands on a “dysfunctional thought.” You put it very eloquently in the next sentence, “…the physical experience of turbulence sends you in a panic even as you remain aware that you aren’t in any danger.” Your thoughts are fine, and rational, it’s the emotions causing problems. And CBT is based on reappraisal of dysfunctional thoughts. If you’re afraid of the panic itself, well, shit: you got buried in a very real balcony collapse, and flew serious never ending badass turbulence. So, that’s some pretty reality based anxiety.
• I suspect, and feel free to tell me to go fuck off; that you have been asking the wrong question for seven years. To me, it seems possible that instead of being afraid of flying, you’re afraid of panicking while flying.
• Benzos help you relax enough to cognitively work out your anxiety, I think you nailed it with:
o “the challenge is to keep your thoughts from running away unchecked.”
o “I can go through a rough patch and think ‘wow, this sucks and I feel awful,’ not ‘I’m completely fucked and oh shit oh shit.’”
• “Realizing that you can arrest a panic attack’s momentum is hugely valuable, since so much of the fear around panic anxiety is that when an attack strikes, there’s nothing you can do. It’s very comforting to know that the knife’s edge between panicking and not panicking isn’t so much a knife’s edge as a plateau that you can control with techniques as simple as breathing or writing.”
This last part especially, in my mind, (see previous disclaimer) reinforces this may not be a fear of flying, it’s a fear of what will happen if you DO panic while flying. Never underestimate the role of “loss of control,” personally; I think it’s the underlying issue in most cases of “air rage.”
Meditation is a wonderful thing; if you haven’t for some reason run across “mindfulness meditation” I suggest checking it out. I think it might be ideal whether this is fear of flying, or fear of panicking. It may very well be what you’ve been using anyway. I have a couple “airplane meditations” on my phone.
I’d love to know your thoughts, a general “fuck off” would be in order if you think I completely missed the mark here, but please consider this alternate view. And someone needs to say it; maybe your Husky should be your “emotional support dog.” Oh wait; I’ve had five huskies. They’re too aloof to give a shit. Cute as all hell, though.
This is a great comment, and I really appreciate all the thoughts you laid out here. Starting from the bottom, my wife and I often joke about Neko (our dog) making a terrible emotional support dog, since she wouldn’t care left or right if I were panicking. One time I cracked one of my teeth biting down on a fork by accident, and while I was rolling around in pain, she took the opportunity to eat the rest of my dinner. Man’s best friend indeed.
You’re 100% right that fear of fear is the issue I deal with, or more accurately, fear of not being able to cope. Because I’ve been in that situation before, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life, I fear being in that place again. People sometimes say, “yeah, but you got through it,” although that process was so horrible that just getting through it isn’t much comfort. That’s why I started using the bear trap analogy – if you “got through” getting your leg stuck in a bear trap, people would probably forgive you for being scared of bear traps.
Fear of flying is a pretty wide-ranging thing that can mean very different things for different people. There’s a British Airways captain on Twitter who replies to people all the time who are scared of the fact that the pilot is going to deliberately crash the plane. And a couple people I know who aren’t scared of flying at all were really thrown by the Air Canada thing at SFO recently. I’m more of the “if it happens, it happens” mind when it comes to actually dying on a plane now – I’m way more nervous about a routine turbulent flight than a freak accident (which reinforces your conclusion).
BTW, the psychoanalyst I mentioned was someone who I had seen on and off for five years by that point, so he was more trying to give me confidence and psych me up for the road ahead, rather than promising something right off the bat. I realize out of context that it would seem like an irresponsible thing to say, but he knew me well enough by that point to have that confidence in me (or at least to try to nudge me toward having that confidence in myself).
As for CBT, I do think it helped in addressing the fear that I wouldn’t be able to cope with flying at all. That’s a dysfunctional thought, so a lot of the work I put in over the first couple years was retraining my brain to accept and trust that I could in fact deploy countermeasures and keep myself from panicking. As the years have gone by, I have slowly pushed out the bar of what level of turbulence I can handle. At first, any little jitter started the panic dominoes (numb hands, fast heart rate, sweating), whereas now I can go through a good amount of shaking without getting shaken up. The problem is that the further the bar gets pushed out, the less likely I’ll ever be exposed to that which is making me so nervous (which means I won’t have the opportunity to prove to myself that I *can* handle it). I may never go through another flight with severe turbulence – and in fact, in the last 7 years, I think I have maybe been on two or three flights with what could actually qualify as “moderate” turbulence, at least according to the literal definition.
Lastly, I wasn’t aware of the true definition of agoraphobia, but that’s definitely something I want to look into more. I thought it was the fear of crowds and open spaces, although the way you describe it, it does track a lot closer to how I describe my own symptoms.
Thanks. I’m gearing up to debut as the 1,347,417th travel blogger in a couple weeks, so you were my days writing exercise. Glad to hear I was close to the mark. After 5 years, you and your therapist get to say anything to each other, I read it as someone said it on the first visit. I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Aaron Beck’s (father of CBT, just turned 96 last week) “Cognitive Therapy of Anxiety Disorders,” where he goes into some detail about agoraphobia. I could forward you a copy of those pages if you want. Specifically discusses airplanes. Phobias tend to get hard-wired early in life. I developed a horrible spider phobia when I was about 6. A psychologist I work with suggested exposure therapy, to which i replied “I JUST told you I’m terrified of spiders, why the fuck do I want to hold a tarantula?
I did mean to ask: if you don’t mind, how are you with balconies or decks?