My connecting flight to Detroit was cancelled due to weather. The friend I was visiting in Michigan was under the weather with a nasty cough. Thus began my trip to visit friends and family in the Midwest, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above-average. Oh, and where winter storms shut down airports and nasty cold and flu viruses circulate like the gentle breezes rolling along the Santa Cruz beaches.
I was stuck in Chicago, and it took me a while to sort out the situation. I went ahead and booked a new flight to Detroit the next day, but with my friend being sick I was having second thoughts. My plans for this trip were/are a little open-ended, so I debated the pros-and-cons of skipping the Michigan leg of the trip (at least for now) and heading down to Indiana.
My head space starts to swim, my mind feels fragmented, the way I feel in a shopping mall or some big box store
Having risen early that morning to catch my flight, then spending the next four hours scrunched in coach, I wasn’t in a frame of mind to quickly process the situation. Traveling always seems to throw me off, and airports are busy places, people move fast in terminals. Folks are running to catch their flights, and sense of urgency pervades the atmosphere. It’s hard to think.
There’s an interesting psychology about airports, about these “no-places.” It’s “liminal” as my friend Suresh calls it, neither here nor there, a transitional place, a no-place. And everything is so shiny and sterile, a sort of sanitized sanctuary. Some of the toilet seats here have plastic covering, like Saran wrap.
My head space starts to swim, my mind feels fragmented, the way I feel in a shopping mall or some big box store. In a consumer society, this seems like a good way to sell stuff. If a no-place can sort of pull at the edges of our sanity, just a bit, just a little pull, then we’re off-balance just enough to spend, to allow ourselves to be gently guided by carefully crafted signs and delicately displayed products.
I did my best, under the circumstances, but by the time I wrapped my head around the situation, it was getting late, and so I happily resigned myself to spending the night in the airport. I say “happily” because I always feel pleased with myself when I save money on a hotel by sleeping at the airport. Well, that’s how I feel the night before, anyway, when I always think to myself, you’re an experienced travel. You’re a bad ass, and you’ve survived far worse spots than this. Of course I always I feel quite different the morning after.
I woke in a bad way, although saying that I “woke” implies that I “slept,” and that’s a matter up for debate. After twisting and turning all night, contorting my body into the least uncomfortable positions, I didn’t feel so “happily” about my situation, when not only did I feel sleepy and dysfunctional but everyone around me was walking with earnest intent and a distinct sense of purpose, people moving briskly through the labyrinth of O’Hare International like a trained ant army expertly navigating their ant hill tunnels.
I decided to skip the Michigan leg of the trip and go directly to northern Indiana. As it so happened, Nicole, my long-time BFF with whom I’m staying in Warsaw, was returning to O’Hare from a trip the next day, and her husband Ben would be picking her up. A fortuitous turn of events.
And so I’m back at O’Hare, after spending the night in a cheap motel, nearby, a Motel 6 — yes they left the light on for me — that offered absolutely nothing by way of amenities but provided the one critical element: a room that was clean. And as a bonus, the heat worked.
Nicole is arriving in a few hours, from a trip to Uganda for Fields of Dreams Uganda, and I’m contemplating airports and no-places. My Midwestern winter vacation is underway.