Due to the wonders of technology, and my reveling in them today (rather than the normal ranting about feeling antisocial and disconnected), this post is hitting the internet as I am in the air. And no, I didn’t pay the exorbitant in-plane wifi fees for my one and a half hour flight. Mama didn’t raise no fool.
But in planning ahead and thinking of a few things to schedule to post over the long weekend, I couldn’t help but feel giddy about finally getting back on a plane. Although I don’t love the airplane’s too-close seat arrangements, the business people with Bluetooth headsets and their conversations projected (inflicted?) on everyone else waiting at Gate B27, the constantly changing baggage fees, or the overpriced airport food – I have to say that I love airports. If you’re short on time and long on wanderlust, who can complain about traveling by air? I love the people watching. I like passing the departures screen at every gate and envisioning myself there. As I quoted from a New York Times article by Ethan Gilsdorf some time ago, “I gaze longingly at the departures screen: Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Philadelphia, San Juan, Toronto, Zurich. I get destination envy.”
photo by Flickr member lets.book
I also laugh at the segmentation of airport society – the business people who want everyone to know that this is Their Job, who have their black wheelie packed with precision, remove their shoes and their laptop like soldiers ready for battle, always walk (purposefully) and never just ride the moving walkways. They are a different breed.
For me, it’s generally pretty leisurely. I like getting to the airport early, because I know that as soon as I’m through security, my break from reality has officially begun. I’m in this weird world of 24 hour CNN and benches with built-in armrests. In this world, I read. I wander. I buy a magazine or two. I relish that there’s not much I can get done in this world. And that’s the point.
And so I had to laugh at this Budget Travel post about talks in London of installing “unofficial” slow (tourist) and fast (local) sidewalk lanes on Oxford Street. I think they are sort of missing the point, because it’s perhaps less about tourists taking their sweet time and more about people being unaware of their surroundings and kind of rude. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk when you’re dawdling is boorish, whether you’re a slow moving local (moms with kids, couple out for a pleasant walk, older person) or a tourist. But the concept still interests me – tourists are stopping to gaze at the architecture, aren’t feeling so rushed, are taking things in, while locals are walking purposefully, head down, just trying to get from place to place. If only we could see our lives more like tourists, full of wonder and adventure and a sense of possibility.
If only more people could just ride the damn walkways, still out of the way of those who need to run to their gate, or walk along at a comfortable pace, knowing that, at least this time, there’s no need to rush. There’s time to look around, think, notice, and make it to your gate with plenty of time to spare. This addiction to impatience, veiled as instant gratification, doesn’t need to exist in airport land. And it might not need to exist on city sidewalks, either.