Blacking out in the aisle of a plane midflight is unnerving — not to mention socially awkward.

I had just woken up from a five-hour sleep on the overnight flight from New York to Paris. My first thought, as always, was to visit the bathroom, especially before breakfast was served and the aisle would be blocked. I pressed the button to raise the comfy seat from near-flat to upright position and unbuckled the seat belt. I stood up to find my slippers. Maybe a little too fast.

I became dizzy, breaking into sweats up and down my body. Sweating is disgusting especially on a plane surrounded by people and no chance of a shower. My vision became blurry, tunnel vision I think it’s called, and then, as if in slow motion, my legs fell out beneath me. This is quite scary if it’s never happened to you. (Although it is scary even it if has). Crumpled on the floor, in the dark, was me at 30,000 feet. And I still had to pee.

At least it was Business Class. The pundits don’t talk about this in debate over healthcare reform, but it’s true your experience is indelibly shaped by advantages in your circumstances. We know the the rich get better coverage and better doctors, but it’s also true they get better nurses. Stewardesses are like nurses — lovely, knowledgable, accommodating, comforting, manicured.

On my shoulder soon after I fell, I felt the hand of the Air France stewardess. Even in my clogged ears (had my hearing gone too?), her musical French accent cut through the din to ask if I was okay. I managed to nod yes, and mutter I would be fine. “I stood up too quickly after sleeping flat,” I explained. “This has happened before.”

This has actually happened three times before — all on red-eye flights to Europe. The first was to London for work, the second to Ireland for a friend’s wedding, and another on a flight like this one to Paris. If you’re collecting facts or a private investigator like Jason Schwartzmann’s character on HBO’s Bored to Death, here they are: The dizziness always occurs after waking and quickly standing up. It also is after 2-3 glasses of wine imbibed to help me fall sleep. I note this only to myself. It’s a vasovagal response thing, I learn from Wikipedia, and one of the triggers is high altitude. My father has had vasovagal responses in restaurants if he doesn’t eat soon enough after medication or with liquor. I called him about this to find out how he handles it and to see if his symptoms are the same. He’s learned to lay down on the floor — even in a restaurant — to get his blood pressure even again, he said. Luckily for me, none of these times occurred sitting in Economy Class. I hate Economy. I doubt the attention would have been even half the same. I might have collapsed in the dark, but not found by a stewardess until day break when the beverage cart had rolled into my prostrate body. The carpet is probably not cleaned more than once a month. Compared to the high-touch care of Business Class, Economy is the HMO of inflight.

I still needed to go to the bathroom. Able to stand up, one stewardess walked with me towards the sliding doors with the assuring words “Vacant.” I still wasn’t right yet, though, and she could tell. “You can’t go in there alone yet,” she was firm. By this point, I woud listen to anything she had said. For me, the French accent evokes a sense of history, art and confidence, and they have a good healthcare system. She sat me down in a kitchen jump seat, and brought me a wet cloth which immediately helped me cool down. I relished in the simple pleasures like a refreshing towel and the moment was my most positive since I woke up. I wasn’t going to die and there was hope I would get better.

Three stewardesses conspired in French while I sat there with my wet cloth, waiting it out. They agreed I should have oxygen and informed me so. They wheeled over a giant tank and handed me a mask to pull around my head. I had never put on one of these masks, yet had seen them so often on the safety videos. It fell off my face, which was disturbing for future worries, but we got it back on and it stayed in place. The turn of a knob and I was guided to “breathe” and did. The oxygen worked quickly, and to the stewardesses’ questions if I was feeling better, I was able to finally say yes. Yes, much better actually. Finally, I was released to go pee and everyone was able to go back to their duties. I wonder how much breakfast I held up from being served.

By the time we deplaned (love that word), I was still emotionally shaken but physically recovered. I had to fill out a form with my name, ticket number, phone number and home address. Europe loves paperwork, I know, but I think this was a normal procedural thing to cover their ass in case I dropped dead on the train from Paris to Belgium where I was headed for a speaking engagement. I smiled at the people sitting around me who looked at me with concern, probably relieved it hadn’t been them or we didn’t have to do an emergency landing and throw everyone off schedule. Maybe they were suspicious I was a drug addict or had a unique medical condition.

Next time. Recovery is always a bright, cheerful state of being and I of course made all sorts of promises to stay in that safe limelight. For example, I swore off drinking any wine whatsoever next flight, not even a glass. Since going from flat to upright too quickly may have thrown me off kilter, I also wouldn’t recline my seat all the way either to sleep. And I certainly wouldn’t stand up so quickly. Perhaps I’d count to ten as I stood up to find my shoes.

Reaching the custom booth lines, I already knew I didn’t mean a word of it. Especially the promise to forgo wine on such a long flight. I suppose I should see a doctor. I suppose I should read more than Wikipedia. But give up wine on my flight back to New York next week? Turn down the free champagne before an eight-hour luxury flight watching movies?

After all, I’ve never blacked out flying westbound.


Mr. Gibson requested that he be able to observe me in my natural habitat. Due to the relocation of my family members, and the dissolution of our family compound, this interview took place over two days at Solley’s Deli in Encino, California. A place my family and I inhabited frequently during my most formative years.

Mr. Gibson insisted on a relaxed and casual atmosphere. I showed up on time, but comfortable, in my usual ensemble – an American Apparel zip up hoodie in white, crewneck t-shirt in red, and sweat pants with the gathered ankle in navy blue.

The contents of this interview have been edited. All pauses and blinking removed for the sake of brevity.

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CG: Ms. Pollon, I’m going to attempt to pose these questions in an order I believe will be of utmost importance and interest to the American people.

RP: Terrific. I look forward to each and every one of them getting to know me.

CG: Please tell us about the Ticketmaster / U2 concert incident.

RP: Can you be more specific, Charlie?

CG: Regarding Pam Freed in particular.

RP: What aspect of it?

CG: Just after graduating high school, you entered the work force as a clerk at Tower Records in Sherman Oaks, California.

RP: That is correct. I rose from a simple store clerk, to Import Buyer, and then to Shift Manager.

CG: U2 was touring the United States. Your former best friend, Pam Freed, someone you were still in contact with but not as close with as you were the semester previous, knew of your proximity and probable assignment working the Ticketmaster window, and asked you to get her two tickets. You told her you’d try.

RP: That’s right, Charlie.

CG: You didn’t end up getting her those tickets, did you Ms. Pollon?

RP: I didn’t, Charlie.

CG: Why is that?

RP: The tickets were in high demand and Ticketmaster regulations prevented me from being able to make more than one transaction per customer. I did not consider myself above the rules, and so, because I was getting myself tickets, I could not also get her tickets.

CG: Could you not have gotten her tickets bundled along with your tickets? You and your friends could have sat side by side with your former best friend. Everyone would have been happy.

RP: It was against the rules, Charlie.

CG: Were you unable to get Pam Freed tickets or did you simply decide you didn’t want to get her tickets?

RP: I was a Shift Manager, Charlie. There were parameters I was not going to breech.

CG: Our records show you had not been promoted to Shift Manager at that time.

RP: I was on a fast track, Charlie. I wouldn’t allow personal relationships to jeopardize the greater good.

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CG: In ninth grade you tripped and fell during Nutrition. You ended up leaving campus and didn’t return until the following Monday. Tell the American people what caused this extreme reaction.

RP: I fainted, Charlie.

CG: You fainted.

RP: Yes, Charlie. People faint.

CG: Is it not also true that on the day in question, you were wearing, for your first time, a pair of high-heeled Kork-Ease?

RP: That is true. But beside the point. You know, if we must go here, in order to clear my record, I’ll let you know that I’m pretty sure on that day I was also in the midst of the glory that is the female reproductive cycle.

CG: Let me get this straight. You were wearing unwieldy high-heeled shoes, may or may not have been suffering from menstrual cramps, and you fainted.

RP: I’m not sure my footwear is an important component in this mix but, yes, I’d just gotten the Kork-Ease, was pretty excited about them, and took them for a spin on the campus quad.

CG: ABC was able to locate your yearbook from that time and found various comments throughout the book seeming to address the incident.

RP: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

CG: Quote: “I’m going to use that ‘fainting’ story next time I embarrass myself. Don’t ever change, Lori Baumbach.”

RP: Kids say the darndest things, Charlie.

CG: Another quote: “You think fast on your feet, even though you can’t walk in your shoes. You are 2 sweet 2 B 4gotten, Seth O’ Shanahan.”

RP: Rumors get started.

CG: Speaking of rumors, it’s been reported that The National Enquirer is delving into this piece of your history. Trying to get to the bottom of it.

RP: I’ve got nothing to hide, Charlie. It’s my word against Lori’s and Seth’s.

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CG: History has shown that you are basically a relationship person. You go on a few dates with someone and they either don’t work out or they end up your boyfriend.

RP: I’m single-minded when it comes to love, Charlie. I like to focus on one man, give him my all. It’s truly a metaphor for how devoted I am to our great country.

CG: However, at one juncture in your life you had an overlap. You were in a relationship with one man, and before you ended it with him, met another man of interest. You couldn’t decide which one was “righter” for you… this according to journal records.

RP: Well, Charlie. Both men had admirable qualities and I needed time to assess which path to take.

CG: What does this say about your loyalty, Ms. Pollon?

RP: The man I was in a relationship had taken to focusing on his heavy metal band to the detriment of our partnership. I had needs. Just like the hard working men and women of this country have needs.

CG: Where did you draw the line, “romantically,” with these men, Ms. Pollon?

RP: Charlie, I don’t think the American people want to be dragged in to smut talk like this.

CG: The question is valid, Ms. Pollon, because according to transcripts taken from your private journal, when “Man X” found out about “Man Z” and confronted you, you admit you “totally evaded answering the question.” What are you hiding?

RP: Charlie, evading does not connote lying. Evading means avoiding. The words even sound alike. I think the American people want someone in charge who can avoid conflict and I have a long history of avoiding conflict. I tell conflict, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

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Preview of The Rachel Pollon Interview – Part 2, with Charlie Gibson:

Lies My Hair Told – The Chemically Straightened Years

Why I Pulled The Leather Waistband Tag Off of My Levi’s 501s – What Size Pant Was I Concealing?

How Often I Listen To Jennifer Lopez On My iPod During Cardio Workouts at the Gym

(Note: At my handlers’ discretion, interviewer Charlie Gibson may be replaced with Project Runway’s Tim Gunn. He seems so nice!)