Flight 1131 out of LaGuardia to Dallas—my original flight through Washington D.C. having been cancelled at the last minute—is scheduled to take off at 9:52 a.m. We are finally airborne at 10:24, which means I risk missing my connection to Nashville by way of Texas. It’s already been a complicated morning: leaving my apartment at 6:30 a.m. with plenty of time to spare for a 10:45 flight, but I don’t know what terminal to go to so the driver drops me at the first American Airlines departure terminal we encounter and I learn I have to be across the airport to Terminal C, the driver already long gone. I wait for a blue shuttle, as instructed, uncertain I have walked to the right pick-up point. Eventually, when I inquire of an airline associate passing by, it is confirmed, and some time later, I am on the shuttle heading to Terminal C, still with plenty of time to spare—or so it would seem.
I am forced to do self-check-in at a kiosk, and it isn’t that I am not a big girl, sufficiently self-sufficient, and I do have some reasonable knowledge and confidence regarding technology, but I find airports confusing enough, and LaGuardia is one of the worse, and sometimes I just want to be coddled. Ticket in hand, or what passes for a ticket these days, thin paper spit out from the kiosk printer, and bags checked, I pass through security without much fanfare except for the need to turn away from passenger after passenger baring their soles, placing uncovered, unshod feet on the filthy floor and area rugs as we are herded through what passes for a safety check. Yes, I am a germaphobe; do you need any more explanation than this? So, of course, travel presents an added layer of anxiety beyond the normal stress of chaotic, risky, noisy, etc., etc., etc. I make the necessary bathroom stop—and I think it is clear by now I wouldn’t dare if I didn’t absolutely have to do so—and, finally, I’m headed to my gate.
I learn my flight is cancelled, and not because there is some public announcement, oh no. Rather, it’s because I ask an attendant to check my boarding pass because I like to be certain, and, when he looks it up, he gives me the bad news, calls about my bag when I pick one of three options, two of which put me on standby and don’t guarantee me a seat, and one of which takes me to Dallas and extends my travel time by hours. Exhausted yet?
When the new flight takes off a half hour later than expected and my connection window is cut from an hour to 30 minutes, I have visions of being stranded at my next stop, on top of my worries out of the gate (pun fully intended) that my bag will not be waiting for me in Nashville. My friend who is flying in from Rochester, Minnesota, who was originally supposed to arrive in Nashville an hour after me, and will now get there two hours before me, is solicitous and will wait. I want to be Brian Finch (“Limitless”) for an afternoon, bypass the delay after delay, how the plane taxis and taxis, how the seconds, minutes, hours accumulate. I want to step through this waste of my precious time, as if I don’t do a yeoman’s job of wasting time on my own every day via TV, video games, art projects, custom furniture, paying bills—and what constitutes a waste of time, really, or a good use of time?
Onboard, the baby three seats over cries and cries, as I am sure the mother wants to do, as I can attest I might have done myself when I was a young parent, more easily prone to an emotional meltdown back then.
In my seat, by the window, always my preference, I know that my luggage will follow me accordingly or it will not. The clouds, a meditation in white and gray, go on and on the way I imagine time does, and what is there to be done at this point but to nap while time escapes me, and the baby cries and cries.
Go somewhere noisy, very noisy, if you prefer quiet as I do, or do the opposite if you are someone who likes noisy chaos, sit and listen, allow for whatever comes up, all of it.
“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin
Image: “Lady’s Mantle After the Rain,” Wolcott, Connecticut, 2016. © Faith Vicinanza