06 April, 2009

Airplanes and Airports

I like airplanes because they take me places that I have never been. They take me places I want to go. They go high in the sky, and the earth seems like a tiny model planet, like you'd see when you played with one of those little train sets as a kid. I like airplanes because of the sheer awe of the fact that something that weighs hundreds of thousands of pounds can float in the air. I like airplanes because they're the closest thing to magic that I have ever experienced; you walk in the door, sit down, wait several hours, walk out the door, and you are in a completely different place, with different terrain, different people, different climate. Different worlds.

I especially like airplanes when they bring good things to me.

I like seeing the planes on the ground, in their giant parking lots, and being awed by the size of the engines, the height from the ground, the beauty, the colors of the paint on all the different planes. I like the anticipation of meeting someone at the airport. It feels like the best thing you can do for someone: "I'm going to pick her up at the airport today". What sounds better than that? Nothing. Whether it be a friend, family, lover, coworker. No matter what, the airport pickup has a feeling of kindness to it that is hard to surpass. People are always tired, and stressed after traveling, and there's nothing better than to have someone "there for you".

I like the long conveyor-belt walkways in some of the larger airports. Though, in truth, I rarely use them. I like to walk next to them, lugging my heavy bag, passing all the people who are standing still on the beltway, and feel righteous about how I'm not lazy. I like the giant digital bulletin boards that list the arrival and departure times except, of course, when the word next to my flight is "Delayed".

But what I don't like is when airplanes are taking things away from me. Or taking me away from things. Or taking me back to places I am not yet ready to return. I don't like leaving a beautiful, warm, tropical place. Getting on the plane from Hawaii felt like I was being torn away from someplace I belonged. Getting on the plane from Paris felt like I was leaving a magical "other" world that I had barely yet explored. I don't like waiting in lines when the anticipation is not there. Leaving. Bad.

I don't like dropping people off at the airport. Saying goodbye. And it is always that feeling that in a few minutes the distance between you will be growing, and growing, rapidly, moving apart at 150, 250, 550 miles per hour. Your love is lifted high into the air, 30,000 feet, and vaulted to some distant place, where you cannot touch, cannot kiss, cannot look into each other's eyes. Apart. I don't like that. Saying that goodbye, and having that hug on the curb at the departures, and trying to get one last deep look at each other, hoping that if you look hard enough you can actually store extra memories of their details. But you can't. You can't "gulp" that kind of input, like you drink a large glass of water in a hurry. It just doesn't work. I don't like the drive home after dropping someone off at the airport. They're not here anymore. And now it's probably back to whatever it was like before they were here. Back to alone. Back to missing. Back to only being able to communicate through electronic means.

I don't like airports when I'm leaving. The security bothers me more. The wait at the gates. The idiotic boarding schemes. The food courts with their horrible and overpriced selections. The unpredictable and often nasty restrooms. The long walks with heavy bags, tired, dirty, ready to just be home, but knowing there's all this technology and space to traverse.

It is amazing how the same exact experience can be perceived entirely differently depending on internal states.

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