Here I am, stuffed into a large metal tube, propelled through the air thousands of feet off the ground. While amazing, it is terrifying. Not the flying part, that has never bothered me. It is the falling part that gets my goat. In fact, I have had many dreams throughout my life where I am falling through the air. One dream, in fact, was so vivid that I can recall it to this day. It went like this:
My daughter, who was 8 or so at the time, and I were flying in a plane. She was in the seat across the aisle from me. The airplane broke apart and I reached out for her but could not get her hand. I was strapped into my seat, falling back and away from her, while she floated, strapped to her seat, in the opposite direction. I felt all the fear and floating and mother’s desperation as we were separated, as the plane broke apart in the clear blue and sunny sky. I helplessly watched her move farther and farther away from my outstretched arm while I desperately screamed for her. Even to this day I have those awful feelings of desperation and falling and helplessness. Whew, that dream sucked and the memory still gives me chills. Brrrr.
Back to present day and my reality right now. I am flying Cheap-O airlines. I do not think it fair to name them, as I chose them due to the low cost. I knew what I was getting into and I gladly saved some coin. I worked really hard to get everything I would need for a week into a medium sized backpack. My hiking pack was too big and I did not want to check it. For the price of checking a bag, I could literally buy clothes. New even, but second hand for sure. Living in the Jeep now feels like I have a closet full compared to the process of what to take on this trip. I feel confident that I chose well and my sister promised me an endless array of jackets and hoodies and such should the need arise. I have socks and underwear and she has a washer and dryer. I got this!
I took public transportation to the airport. Conveniently enough, part of the journey was already part of my friends daily commute. We did the research and it was one extra bus then a short walk for me to get to the airport. I already had the requisite transit card and I loaded it with money the night before so that all I had to do was swipe to pay. It was smooth and seamless and without incident. We chatted during the train portion then she graciously walked me to my bus stop. She then went on to her usual day. The bus seemed to take a long time, but really it was fine and I was safely at my gate well ahead of schedule.
I am, and always have been, a travel spaz. In a good way as I am always early, and will be way too early rather than risk being late. I plan for hiccoughs or mishaps and would rather walk the hallways of the airport than stress out stuck in traffic. Fortunately, my last husband was the same way and we traveled well together. He has some friends that arrive at the airport when we are supposed to be boarding and I am just not wired that way. I prefer to stay calm and have plenty of time if needed.
I can compare being on an airplane to being at camp. There are both written and unwritten rules, and there are certain types of folks who travel. I mean, there are signs posted and the staff give you their spiel about safety and smoking and seatbelts. As with camp, cool, got it, read the signs and don’t be a dick. Roger that. However, there are certain groups of traveling folks one can lump together. Not everyone fits a mold, but I bet nearly everyone who travels shares some characteristics with one, or more, of these groups.
As previously described, we have the stress ball travelers. These folks are always late, never prepared, cannot find this or that thing. They are uptight, out of their comfort zone, taught wires ready to snap. They are frequently yelling at someone as a way to release the stress they impose on their bad selves. They tend to be demanding of the flight staff, complain about every fucking thing, and are just miserable humans. If this is a couple, the fighting never stops. Blah! Get outta here and shut the hell up. Thankfully, I am not generally in their travel space as they would get the fuck off darts shooting out of my eyes. Keep your chaos away.
Next is the large family with lots of kids and all of their accouterment. One parent units I feel for, but two parent units not so much. There are strollers, diaper bags, toys, backpacks, stuffed animals, snacks, food… it is an extensive list. Why is my bag only 14 inches when these folks are bringing a trunk load of crap on the plane??? That always pissed me off, how they get dispensation for bags and bags and here I am with a measuring tape sweating the inches of my one backpack. I mean, I understand family vacations and maybe this is not even a vacation. Maybe somebody died or they are moving or there is some other unavoidable event that requires the entire family to travel together. But still, a double stroller and all those bags??? Come one, people, your kid can just color or you can read to him/her. They will not die if they get bored and you will survive talking to them.
I will not mention the kids or the babies who are acting up. I mean, if you are a parent of any sort you have had, or have been, THAT KID at one time or another. These parents and these kids are trapped and you cannot ever explain to the kid what is happening. I am sorry for you and your kid and I will just sleep or turn up the volume or stare out the window or order more drinks. You have my sympathy.
Next we have the person who travels as part of their job or routine of life. The serious traveler, the one who may be all business, literally or figuratively. They travel light and small. They are fast and efficient and move in a stealth manner going about their day. They talk to nobody, unless you call them on the phone. They are quick to get a drink and fire up the computer or iPad. They work and sleep and work some more. Most of the time they are in first or business class, which I will not pay extra for. In fact, I do not think I have ever flown first class. I will have to add that to my life goals for someday. I like these travelers as they are in their own world. They may have a polite greeting or simple verbal exchange, but all they really want is to be left alone. Me, too.
Closely related to this traveler is someone like me. I travel light, quickly and efficiently. I generally get on the plane and go to sleep or listen to music or read. I do not want to make conversation and my vibe says so. I dress for travel, using every pocket my tactical pants give me. I generally have my own food and beverage and just want to be left alone. I can be pleasant when needed, but we will not be sharing our lives on this trip. Well, unless you are a handsome, single man of a certain age range, then we may have a deal. Otherwise, you will not even know I am around. I have traveled for business, pleasure, and for a death. My first time buying a one-way ticket. There are also couples who travel like this and who are so in sync that they operate like a well oiled machine. They each have their assigned jobs and generally she carries the documents while he carries the food. Each has the appropriate size bag(s) and handles it like a boss. Hats off to their efficiency!
Then we have the traveling lovers. All ages, all races, all sorts of configurations of two humans. They are newly weds, parents on the run, older folks on their second honeymoon, or a newer couple still in the kissy-face phase. They will first want to switch seats if they are not together. Then, they will be leaning on each other, kissing here and there, always in each others space. I feel smothered and can barely breath just watching. I mean, good for you for finding love or infatuation or your latest fix. I am glad you and that other human have bonded to such a degree. I am sure the small seats or inability to recline are not bothering them as they play spit-swap. I am not sure how I would be if I was traveling with a partner. It has been a while. I am not all about PDA, either. I do not like to draw unnecessary attention to myself. I mean, there is a time and a place for everything and this may neither be the time or the place. Sure, hold hands or sleep on each other. But, please, save all the whispering and kissing and teasing and amorous eye gazing for your hotel room or B&B or house or wherever you will be later.
I think the last group are teams or groups who travel. There are sports teams, social clubs, families, business groups, all sorts of ways groups of people travel. Often you can tell by their shared uniforms, or track suits. Sometimes they have matching shirts or hats or luggage or tote bags. They may have the same tan or sunburn, too. They are talking and laughing and excited. Or, they are tired as hell, hung over, burned out and ready to be done. There may be a leader or chaperone or boss or group wrangler of some sort. They move as a pack, or in smaller packs or cliques. They eat together, generally sit together, and share food or pillows or jackets. They are in their own world and that is fine. They may be a little loud if they are awake or excited, but they mean no harm. Hell, they may even be happily intoxicated and that only means that they will be sleeping soon. Cheers to your group trip!
There are also folks who travel who have health issues, addiction issues, anxieties and problems we will never know about or see. They may appear to be like folks in one of these other groups, but their deeper reason eludes us all. That was me when I went to be with my Dad as my his wife went through the dying process. I had never traveled out of necessity before and I slept and cried and was on the edge most of the time. It was hard. It was not why I wanted to travel. I think about that and about who, on my flight, may be in that space. Perhaps it is to be with a dying loved one, perhaps to get medical care somewhere, perhaps a birth or a wedding or putting Mom or Dad into assisted care. This may be a first flight, or it may be a last. There are many deeper reasons we travel and we generally hold those in and let our exterior selves only show.
I get it, I understand. Airplanes and airports are not safe spaces to share our deepest and most intimate emotions. We expect each other to stay on a somewhat level plane, predictable and in control. It helps us as we move about in these crowded spaces, at the whim of uncontrollable forces and situations. It helps us keep a certain “normality” about us when everything else is not our norm. I like to think we are all doing our best, keeping to ourselves, but also being mindful of our fellow humans who are struggling. I like to think any of us would break convention should the need arise. History has shown us that we will, when pushed or asked, rise to nearly every occasion to help and protect our kith and kin. I like to think I would put myself last and put others first. I like to think that I will remember to put on my oxygen mask before helping someone else. If I forget, than I did so with the very best of intentions. Traveling separately, but in this together.
In the words of my daughter: “In case of an emergency landing, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass good bye!”