Standing in any of the numerous service lines at O’Hare, I have come, once again, to realize just how impossible it is to travel well. You can travel often and learn techniques for better efficiency and organization, but the lugging of luggage and maneuvering of items usually easily obtained in everyday life always proves taxing and clumsy.
You may travel frequently, as I do, or rarely, but it is always awkward. International travel is often no more difficult than domestic travel except that you have added some current-adapters to your pack and triple-checked your packing list to calm your own psychological stress from the adding of “inter” to “national”. But they are, basically, the same process in regards to navigating an airport.
You must have coffee. An interaction that usually involves the simple act of pulling a card or cash out of your purse or pocket has now become a balancing act and ultimate test of reflexes. How do I reach into my day-pack, pull out my wallet-book without pulling out my passport and notepad and dropping all of it? And if I drop it can I catch it without toppling over? The day-pack is perched on your half-bent knee while you are putting half your energy into not falling over. Your backpacking pack, that didn’t feel heavy before, is pulling in the direction of gravity: down and side-ways. You are left-heavy. Right-hand reaching into the pocket, left-hand holding the day-pack, core-muscles holding you upright, fingers trying to pull out your cash whilst pushing the other items back down. And suddenly you feel like a horrible person for being slightly annoyed at how long it took the lady in front of you to pay for her cappuccino.
You justify your judgment. She was only carrying a medium-sized purse and a handbag. You have your entire luggage on your back. She did the best she could. You couldn’t have pulled out your item before you reached the register because your luggage would have knocked out the traveler behind you, who already took out the traveler behind them.
In the end you actually feel pride. You had half the trouble she did with three-times the baggage weight (literally) because you are an “expert” traveler. This, however, does not make the airport dance smooth. Just slightly less clumsy than before. Awkward is awkward, to varying degrees.
The act of using internet is just as ridiculous due to the unusual (in today’s technological standards in the USA) nature of the problems. For two hours I checked and rechecked and double-checked that the airport’s wi-fi was still NOT working. I finally gave in and phoned the help number. After walking me through all the steps I had taken twice on my own, they said, “Try moving 20 feet away.” As stupid as that sounds, it allowed me to access the slow and rather shoddy internet, which I used for the sole purpose of this post: where I am talking about using the slow and rather shoddy internet.
It turns out that I can be a rather ridiculous person at times.
After the money dance and the internet dance comes the pee-pee dance. That’s right, I said pee-pee. In a pre-emptive move to prevent water-retention and touch-down on the European continent with swollen ankles, I have consumed two bottles of water and used the restroom four times. It always seems like a good idea until I have to pick up all my stuff migrate to the ladies’ room. But, as I just said, I am ridiculous.
At this point, getting into your seat on the plane, baggage stored, I-pod in hand and book on lap, is your ultimate goal. There is nothing else to focus on. In this space and time, that thought represents a future state of contentedness. It is peace. Not a mountain-top temple, not a yoga class, not a prayer. That little airplane seat. Too hot or too cold, but never just right. Too little leg room or no leg room at all. It is utopia.
And so begins a trip to England, with humility. As much humility as some one with an ego like mine can muster, anyhow.