Sunday, October 31, 2010

Airport Elevator Waiting Rooms

    It strikes me every time I fly that airports are kind of like a cross between giant waiting rooms and elevators. I don’t mean the waiting room as in waiting at the gate, but more of the mentality. We shuffle through all of the check points and then arrive at our gate. Then, we sit and wait – like I’m doing right now – in those semi-comfortable chairs. But, if you take a look around it kind of resembles the feel of and mentality of a cross between an elevator and waiting room. There are of course a few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, we don’t really talk to the people we don’t know. We try not to sit right next to someone if we can help it. I have to admit that I find it kind of funny.

    I really enjoy flying; I think I always have, particularly in small planes. My first flight was when I was a little girl. I don’t remember it, but I have heard the stories. Apparently I watched the ground fall away from a Cessna taking flight, and my comment was that I had to go to the bathroom. Promptly falling asleep soon after, that problem resolved itself; but, a love of flight was born that day. Since then I have flown with family and friends, by myself, and for learning about science experiments. It really is a remarkable feat, taking a metallic cylinder with engines, a tail, and wings, and pushing it hard enough against the forces of the air and atmosphere to create thrust and lift. How magical it must have seemed to the first flyers. I think of Orville and Wilbur in their spruce and canvas bird, how amazed they might be now to see the trans-Atlantic birds.
    Part of it is the mystery of how it works, I mean we know how the engine works and how the principles of science work – but there is still so much that we simply do not know. It’s a beautiful, magical mystery and one that I hope I continue to enjoy my entire life. The other part is the view that flight offers us. Certainly there are conveniences which are unique to truly being to travel much closer to “as the crow flies.” But, the view of looking down through those port hole windows is a truly unique perspective. We can gain a glimpse of it on a bluff or even more so a mountain. But, at thousands of feet above earth, the ground itself becomes a work of art. Tapestries of fields, webs of roads – they stretch out over the land. Rivers glint like poured silver, a filigree of delicate and immense proportion to decorate the world. Oceans are not mono-colored, but have many different shades of blues, grays, and greens. The sky itself takes on a different look, as the location we are in within the atmosphere is different; we see the top of the clouds.
    We sit in the airplane, in the giant waiting rooms, and ignore this common experience. But, in truth we are sitting through something extraordinary together. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should break the mentality and really start to talk to our fellow passengers; after all we are waiting together.