I flew to California this week for my final visit before my move next month.
Not much about traveling makes me sweat anymore. I used to get extremely anxious about it to the point of hardly sleeping the night before — not for the flying itself, but because it was a set of circumstances over which I couldn’t exert my control. (The illusion of control is a strong one; even after we recognize it, we still cling to it.)
But this time, my fifth trip to California in just nine months, it had finally begun to feel routine. Uncomfortable routine, but routine nonetheless.
Anything we do can become commonplace after a while, if we do it long enough and often enough.
The only ingredient of air travel that I still marvel at is the way people behave. It’s not that they’re more inconsiderate than normal — in fact, I’d rather be in an airport than an LA freeway any day.
But there’s a certain anxiety that climbs up into everyone’s stomachs and changes their behavior when they’re fighting crowds and making long sprints to get on the right flights.
I suspect it’s because we have less control over things in an airport. We subject ourselves (or are subjected) to a complete search of our things and our persons, as though travel-size shampoos, laptops, and body cavities truly captivate the workers in the security lines.
And then we wait at ticket counters hoping the flight won’t be delayed or canceled, leaving us stranded on hard benches eating bad food until the airline sees fit to grace us with a flight to get on.
Someone needs to figure out teleportation so we don’t have to deal with that anymore.
One of the funniest parts of it, though, is how we all rush to board the plane as soon as we’re allowed to do it. I would understand it better if we didn’t already have seats reserved, and if the plane were threatening to leave without us.
But really, we just stand up to manage our position in line — carefully balancing obligatory politeness with our sense of entitlement — so that we can get on a plane and wait for twenty minutes in smaller, less comfortable seats than we had at the gate.
I do it too, sometimes, and I know I’m not the only one who’s aware of himself when he does it. I’ve laughed with others as we ask ourselves why we bother, and then stand up and get in line anyway.
Airports are not my favorite place to be, but I suppose they’re a great place to practice centering ourselves. After all, if we can find stillness in an airport, with a mad crash crush of people threatening to trample us into the ground in their haste, couldn’t we find it most anywhere?
Most of the trip, I only wanted to sleep. I don’t like rising early, but my flight demanded it.
Of course, it was impossible to really sleep on the plane, but by the time we landed, I was awake enough to stand up and get in another line — to stand waiting for five minutes to get off the plane.