Wednesday, January 5, 2011

airplanes .

Oh, the good and bad of traveling. Planes in general – you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes, you’re real lucky, and everything runs smoothly, and nothing takes too long, and you get to where you want to be on or ahead of schedule. Other times, it’s absolutely miserable and nothing really seems to go right.

Today was a mix of those.

My flight from Newark to Charlotte was at 1pm. I had yet to finish packing as of this morning, and so I forced myself out of bed at 8am, after attempting and failing to get up by 7. We left the house by 1030, and arrived at Newark airport without much trouble in around 45 min to an hour. My mom for some reason wanted to buy me lunch, but I declined, using the argument that I wanted to make sure I got through security in time to catch my flight, despite the fact that it was pretty far before the time I had to get on the plane.

After dealing with one stupid jerk in the security line who was angered by the fact I simply moved to an open section of table in front of him to set up all my stuff to put through the scanner (because he had not slid down to the open space, aka he was retarded), I was through and sitting in the airport with an hour to go, probably about 40 minutes or so until boarding.

Airports are simply put, interesting places. There’s always something going on; always something different. You hear different languages, you almost get run over by the people driving around those less physically adept to traverse the paths between terminals, you scoff at overpriced food and of course, you wait. I never seem to be able to occupy myself in the airport terminals while waiting for a flight. I get antsy, change positions about 80 times, and since I don’t want to pay for using the airport wifi, don’t really ever use my laptop. Instead, I like to just watch. You really see all kinds of people there – the businessman, traveling lonesome and light, pecking away at the keys on his laptop. You see the single mom, struggling to control her children as they wander off or begin to cry, irritating those around her and frustrating her beyond belief. You see the college student, traveling alone, sitting impatiently, not knowing what to do. You see the family on vacation, excitedly an animatedly talking about their future travels, or maybe they are on their way back from an awesome vacation. You see those who look worried, scared, angry, frustrated, and just plain exhausted.

It’s just crazy to see all those emotions and scenarios in one place.

Sometimes I imagine that each person has a sort of painted line that follows where they go. The paths all crisscross and leave behind a beautiful network of complication. Everyone has their own place of departure, their own destination, and all a different path in life. Yet here we all are, at one of the most common crossroads one encounters in life. Here we all are, at the exact place in the exact same moment of time, doing the exact same thing, and maybe even going to the same place.

While on the ground, seeing a plane overhead is no longer a rare occurrence. And I take a moment to stare up and gaze at it as it draws a billowing white line across the sky from the air it disturbs through its travel. And I wonder, where are all those people going? Maybe they’re looking back down at me, a speck that isn’t even visible from 30,000 feet. Maybe they’re just sleeping, catching up from a long day. Maybe they’re oblivious, and this plane ride is just another part of their busy life. Or maybe it’s the first time they’ve ever flown, and every second spent in the upper atmosphere is an exciting moment in their travel.

In any event, this flight back to GSP was slightly different – upon arriving at my seat on the first flight, I was next to a very young child and her teenage or early 20 years old mother. It was, to say the least, irritating. However, I found the child fascinating, and sort of snuck some glances to just watch, taking in what I could without looking creepy. I was glad to get off the plane, but being put in that scenario was an experience.

Charlotte airport is one of my favorites. It’s huge – with 5 concourses each with up to 32 gates. I was dropped off at Concourse B, and naturally, I had to walk all the way to Concourse E, and then all the way to the very end to gate 32B. I was going to be on a tiny propeller plane to go from Charlotte to Greenville/Spartanburg, in which the taxiing would take more time than the actual flight.

For the first time, I did not let the sounds of the airport penetrate my ears. Gone were the chatter of excited passengers, the sighs of the weary, and the grumbles of hungry stomachs and tired children. The sun shone brightly through the floor-to-ceiling windows that stood proudly in the food court and atrium between Concourse A and B, and the rest of them. I plugged myself in to the calming sounds of Port Blue and just slowly walked a rhythmic pace to my destination in the airport. The lack of lyrics allowed me to concentrate deeply on thoughts rattling around my head, and just really enjoy the walk. I like traveling alone, and I can’t really place my finger on why, but I do. Being shut off and providing my own soundtrack made it even better – and I liked being able to just look around, take in the visual sights, and all the different planes with their many passengers.

And just like that, I am back in the southern half of the states, where it was 65 degrees upon arrival.

I return to the town of Clemson on Friday.

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