EAST TWIN (headed WEST)
I’m sitting in one of those black pleather and steel seats ubiquitous in airports around the country. Across from me a woman in her 60’s with short grey hair is opening her yogurt and granola parfait. A couple of seats down from her is a tall and broad middle-aged man with a shaved head, wearing a purple, turquoise and paisley track suit and soft black shoes. The mousy, dark eyed grandmother in the white cardigan on her other side smiles at me when our eyes meet. We’re all in limbo, waiting for a flight that was delayed not once but twice, now to due leave almost three hours late. Adding to the burn, they are in the process of boarding the flight to Atlanta following ours, on time and all seats booked.
Normally I love to travel. When K & I left the house this morning, I was in a great mood. There’s something soothing to me in the predictable rituals of the airplane journey – packing only the essentials, toiletries and jewelry each in their own small bag, clothes sorted in to outfits and folded neatly. The curbside drop-off, checking in and boarding passes printed, the transition through security: shoes and jackets off, laptop out of the bag, tucking belongings in the grey plastic bins. Or maybe it’s a Pavlovian response – the culmination of all these small motions being a new place, an adventure.
Now that I know our plane is in-route to Raleigh I’ve relaxed, settling in to the pace of the day, which is clearly going to involve a lot of waiting, interspersed with moments of action. I’m still a little preoccupied by the vision of the bag I’ve checked; full not with my belongings (I usually don’t even manage to fill a carry on bag) but with my Fall ’13 samples and a run of tee-shirts I stayed up ’til 1 cutting last night and am bringing to my sewing contractor in California; getting lost in the Atlanta transfer.
Since there’s nothing I can do about that until, or even if it happens, I try to push the image out of my mind. My aunt Diana once told me that worrying is futile – either the thing you were fretting over doesn’t happen in which case you worried for nothing, or it does happen, in which case you’ve worried twice. This piece of advice has stuck with me, and helped me countless times to let go, concentrate on what’s happening in the moment, and to chose the optimistic point of view.
That camaraderie that develops at times like these has kicked in; sharing information gleaned from the front desk agent, exchanges of ‘where-are-you-headed’, the stories of complications encountered, bad customer service experienced. I watch my neighbor’s bags so she can walk to the end of the concourse to get a burger unhindered. Before leaving she asks if she can get me anything, when I decline, mentioning that I had a salad ‘oh you’re good’ she says, but then we both laugh when I reply ‘a caesar, not sure that’s any better than Five Guys’.
Now the SECOND scheduled flight to Atlanta is leaving and our plane has finally arrived. Everyone is shuffling about, sliding water bottles into bags and finishing phone conversations in preparation for the boarding procedure that will start in a few minutes. Soon we’ll be moving slowly in single file down the middle aisle, eyes roving forward seeking seat and empty over head bin, sliding into whichever tiny lettered and numbered space has been assigned to us.
Usually this is one of the best times for people watching, especially since airlines started charging to check bags. Inevitably there will be at least one woman with an excessively heavy bag, struggling to lift it over her head. On this flight it’s the girl assigned to the seat next to me. As I’m asking her if she needs a hand, the flight attendant appears, and she passes the bag over to her. ‘I’m not lifting this on my own’ snaps the flight attendant, ‘it’s too heavy for my back too’, and I mentally cheer. I’ve never really understood that version of femininity – the helpless girly-ness. The flight attendant is pretty, with tight, tiny dreads piled high on her head, burgundy large-framed glasses and a mod-white plastic watch. She’s definitely somebody’s cool friend.
I’m so busy answering an email from my accountant on my phone, and the intercom is so ridiculously quiet, that I miss the first part of the next ritual – the request to make sure tray tables are up and seats upright, and realize they’ve started an incredibly abbreviated version of the safety drill. I feel like the safety drill used to have a sort of dramatic tension, but I guess now that we (the average middle class American) are so used to flying it’s become old hat. On the next leg of the flight they have a video, which rewards the attentive viewer by making visual gags – a pair of beehive’d ladies in the nod in agreement with the presenter, an man with an accordion closes it and stows it under the seat.
And then we start moving, finally, and excitement washes over me…it never ceases to amaze me that within a few short hours you can be anywhere in the world. I’ll be arriving in California, dad says they’ll be up waiting, the porch light on. Now for the next ritual, the beverage and snack service…