During my recent traveling adventures, I discovered that there are four types of travelers:
ENTITLED: They come in all forms, first class not required although this traveler assumes they are owed an upgrade always. You can spot them easily as they usually have a fancy bag (or 50) that won’t even begin to fit into the overhead compartment. And they roll their eyes a lot and look for an audience of people to echo their chorus of frustration when, say, the trident gum only comes in winterforest and not wintergreen or when their seat’s magazine has a crossword puzzle filled out already.
GOODY-TWO-SHOES: These are the people-pleasers of the bunch who assume that they are in trouble at all times or that they are going to be in trouble at any time. They dart eyes in security, avoid all interactions with flight attendants, and are unnecessarily cordial to even entitled travelers.
TIRED: You know these. They barely move. It’s like their mouths and their limbs have been frozen in playdoh sludge. When they get on the airplane, they immediately don’t give a rat’s ass that they are the owners of a neck and just fall into a deep awkward, alien-like slumber before fastening their seatbelt, with their head bobbing side to side.
WISE: These travelers also come in all forms. I’ve seen some as young as 5. They are like the middle bear in the goldilocks story. Just right. They pack for the flight just right. They are there at the gate in enough time to read and eat and drink caffeine, just right. Their devices are charged just right. And you won’t find them wearing stilettos or carrying a brand new “don’t get dirty” backpack. No. They are dressed just right. And, thus, their expectations are just right.
PARENTS: These travelers deserve a category unto themselves, although each set often exhibits characteristics from the above categories. However, the following qualification remains constant: Parents walk into airports, carrying really impossibly cumbersome objects and live tiny humans, with an attitude of: DO YOU SEE WHAT I AM HAVING TO DO, YOU WISE TRAVELER DRINKING COFFEE WITH TWO HANDS? They want a badge of honor or at least some recognition of their brave act, which is why they walk up to the gate super early and super eager when the flight attendant says, “Anyone traveling with small children or needing extra time are now allowed to board.” In reality, this is a terrible idea. This means you are now stuck on an airplane with rabid wee ones for an extra 30 minutes without going anywhere. Parents, by getting on early, you’ve just added 30 minutes of hot, unmoving, bumbling, claustrophobic time to your flight. I know you won’t hear me, though. You want your badge of honor. I understand.
Ok, anyway, this is not the point of this post. The point of this post is this: As I sat on one of many of my crazy red-eye-multiple-connection,-but-hey-it’s-cheaper flights the last two weeks, I became profoundly aware that air travel is probably one of the most complicated systems the human species has developed with some level of success.
Just think about the design of an airport. How the gates, like sprawling tentacles reaching out from the mothership, each have it’s own intricate schedule with it’s own set of workers doing their own set of actually really important tasks. And how those gates have to be scheduled with flights in such a way so that connecting flights are actually gonna happen. AND then think about how whomever actually designed the airport had to consider how to build it with the right distances and perimeters so that pedestrian travelers could walk (or run) their ragged asses to connecting flights. And then, THEN, think about the baggage system itself. The tagging and the loading and the switching and the people on those trucks and the people throwing your strollers around all willy nilly and the vehicles on the runway running the baggage to and fro. And, holy moly, just take a minute to consider security and all that goes into that after you’ve finally checked in as one of gazillions of travelers that day who need - above all else - safety. The food. The cleaning. The runway traffic directing. And, hold up, have you ever seen those pictures of all the airplane traffic in the sky?
It’s a wild, complex system that, even if it’s got it’s hiccups, works in every city in most countries every single day and nearly every single hour with a very very very very low rate of catastrophe.
Now, here’s the deal. I’m acutely aware (trust me) that this system is often uncomfortable. And it downright fails us quite often. And it certainly could use some upgrades. But, as I sat watching people get annoyed and irritated and be awful to one another when one of these failures developed during my travels, I had a metaphorical epiphany.
And, yes, these happen every day to me, as you know dear bloggity blog blog.
The way we get frustrated with an airport and air travel is exactly how so many of us act when our bodies don’t do what we ask. We have somehow managed to get away with this notion that smooth operating is par for the course and anything under that is an inconvenience, even an injustice and possibly a fatal flaw.
But, now that we have taken a moment to appreciate the complexity of air travel, transfer that focus to your body. Each cell, vibrating and renewing. Every molecule. Every vein. Every beat of your heart, a muscle dependent on oxygen and metabolic functions and electrical impulse in order to keep you alive. Every paper thin layer of tissue, connecting you from limb to limb. Every vertebra, delicately balanced upon a sac full of self-made fluid, helping to keep your head upright AND protecting your spinal cord, the very delicate tether upon which your entire freedom of movement depends.
And, then - THEN - how this system handles all the crap you put it through. The stress. The junk food. The physical exhaustion. How it battles viruses and injuries. How it constantly seeks equilibrium no matter the cost. How it’s entire focus is to keep you, your gorgeous soulful you, walking around and enjoying the pleasures of life.
And, yet, we have very little patience for our bodies. We pummel them. We wish them to be different. We beg them to hide. We tell them they are breaking down and useless. We remind them they are old. We talk shit about them to our friends. We beat them up. We give them barely enough to thrive. We ignore their cries for help. And we are often ashamed of their inability to be a smooth operating system 100% of the time.
Give yourbody (different than yourself) a break. Take a moment to appreciate all it manages and orchestrates every day merely to keep you breathing. Aka, alive. Aka, here. Aka, hi.
And once you do that, how then can you be a wise traveler inside of it?