Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nowhere at the Airport

When you're at the airport, you aren't really anywhere. Priority members, who get to step onto the tiny red carpet laid out for them at the gate, and later eat the warmed up toffee cookie, may feel differently. The airport is an airless, grey, non-space, but it is filled with people with plans. Two men spread shiny wax onto the floor by the exit, their work area cordoned off by caution tape. An older woman and her husband wait on a bench by the windows for their relative for arrive. A few days ago I watched a man on the tarmac idly juggle two orange batons from my spot in 8D. Juggling is a good way to spend the time before you need to wave a plane out of its parking space. The temporary corridor of space that appears to usher you onto the plane always makes me feel like I'm at the oral surgeon's office. Pure dread.

On the plane, I have ritual to keep me sane. I peruse the overpriced dog beds and anti-aging products in Sky Mall. I attentively watch the crew go through the motions with the seatbelt and oxygen mask instruction. When it's time for my complimentary beverage, I choose ginger ale. I keep an eye out for babies and children. A couple of babies might be annoying, but they are insurance against crashing. Everyone is cordial on a plane, until the overhead baggage compartments are full, and the cheerleader stuck in the aisle decides to turn the baggage issue into her own private Tetris game. "Those backpacks can move over there. Whose green backpack is this?"

A man adjusts the air flow vent and finds it broken, perpetually on a gusty flow that sounds like an angry, hushing librarian. The man in front of me for one flight was kind enough to rearrange his seat so I could sit with my husband, and the woman who complimented my bicycle necklace was able sit with her friend and work on pointing at charts during the flight. I stare at the man's S shaped scar for most of the flight. The scar shines at the base of his skull, through the stubble of crewcut. There's bump there too. An accident? A tumor?

As soon as the announcement is made that it is safe to take out any electronic equipment, tray tables are lowered and laptops open up like clams. The evening's cruise over the midwest is shared with people whose faces are lit by blue screens. A man to the left of me works on a Powerpoint presentation. The young man seated by the window next to me pays the extra fee to have internet and watches YouTube videos of monkeys while chatting with someone on Instant Messenger. A woman ahead of us rearranges fashion photos in a Word document. I read a book. In fact, I read three books over the course of four flights, the Sky Mall (twice), and puzzle over why the woman sliding down the inflatable exit on the "In Case of Emergency" instruction card looks like she's at an amusement park. 

Printed words are so soothing when you're really nowhere, in an airport, or over the states you imagine as a map from a geography class in elementary school. Texas is pink. 

1 comment:

Mike Lindgren said...

That's an excellent meditation!

I always buy a terrible, shameful magazine like NYLON FOR GUYS or PAPER to read, if you can call what you do with such a periodical "reading."