Every day begins fundamentally the same way. In a bed. Asleep. The first move in practically every scenario is usually the sticking of my warm and sleepy snout out of whatever it is that I happen to be sleeping in. More recently a nice, fluffed, duck-downed duvet – but in days past often other, less obviously comfy snout-holders. Hostel dorms, tents in varying conditions and on some occasions simply a sleeping bag on a floor somewhere interesting.
The decision to leave this opening context is deferred to the snout, whose sole prerogative it is to assess the quality of the day waiting to pounce just beyond my sleepy confines. Predicting the day correctly is a tough task. Simple factors such as ambient temperature and the possibility of having something fun to do can have a substantial influence on luring me out.
Today, as it happens, will be an interesting day. I am flying out of the city, to the coastal escape of Durban for a few days. I wouldn’t travel nearly as much as I do if the anticipation of changed scenery didn’t excite me as much as it does. So the snout leaves its bed. As an added cosmic smile, it is a clear and warm day outside, warming an uneventful drive through the expanse of Johannesburg. Nothing but the hum of the hot thread of tar connecting my earlier awakening to the airport. And departure.
Many people have mixed feelings about airports. Some love them. Others associate them with parting and find in them sadness. Nobody thinks such things of malls or offices.
Many people have mixed feelings about airports. Some love them. Others associate them with parting and find in them sadness. Nobody thinks such things of malls or offices. Me, I’m an airport-lover – but only of the big ones – the ones which can, and occasionally do, throw you across the world. Like some giant machine, filled with steel and fluorescence and the ability to teleport us puny inputs (snacks included) to new and unanticipated adventures. You just need to put your snout in and see.
The airport is like the bed I woke up in this morning, you see. Almost without exception, each day – however different, however exotic – starts in that same place, with a warm snout and a world of possibilities beyond. So it is here. Whether it was exploring new ideas of myself and the world in Laos, Malaysia or the US, it always started at the foot of the same great gateway, with its wide, rubber-floored corridors and neon signs proclaiming a buffet of adventure. “Would you like to see Bangkok today sir?”, it proclaims. “No thanks”, I smile, “I was just there, it was delicious”.
Indeed, you and have danced that dance, Mr Airport. I arrived in a similar fashion that day, sticking my excited snout through your boarding gates, passport control (where the uniformed lady’s smile mirrored my own excitement) and off. Off in the time-irrelevant confines of the waiting aeroplane. It was as if dreaming – the occasionally confused reality between going to the airport and waking up from one as my tired eyes adjusted to a world I was unaccustomed to.
the plane is propelled across the world with little more than the force of the passengers’ desire to have the little blip move faster over the map of the world.
This flight lacks that drama. No waking up to Suvarnabhumi, Heathrow or another sprawling gateway. Absent is the painfully slow display on the screen in front of me – the one which could lead me to believe the plane is propelled across the skies through little more than the force of the passengers’ desire to have the little blip move faster over the map of the world. Instead only the minutiae of travelers on a a short hop remain. The seat-recliner who is oblivious to the presence of another. The man traveling on business, struggling to finish his presentation and the weary traveler, fast asleep against the window. Oblivious to the fierce, sun-burned clouds below. And horribly mixing my metaphors by choosing to sleep in the middle of this inter-adventure dream-time.
As real to me as I am to them, we are all no more than the cast in each others’ dreams. Me the clearly-not-businessman to the clearly-traveling-family across the aisle. No matter, the constellation of our personalities, bolted to our seats, preserves the in-flight harmony as the stepford-happy hostesses bustle up and down, distracting us from each other – paid preservers of the intermission between life as me and life as the emerging stranger in a world of others.
On the little flights, their smiles never fade as they enact a performance lasting only an hour or so and practiced a thousand times before. It’s nothing special and they’ll be home this evening, back again tomorrow. It wasn’t so with their long-haul brethren. I saw them as excited as me some days – anticipating a brief life in an airport they’d never seen. Perhaps even, for a bit, life beyond its confines before they must return. In those, far more testing dreams, they no longer occupied the space between the characters but became ones themselves. Sleep deprived, suffering the dream-time as we all did and prevailing in the torch-lit night that ran forever until the morning finally burned through the cabin. They, my dream-time friends, became all too real as the journey crested before breaking, banking, dropping and coming in to land.
It’s time to put my snout out and explore.
A writing assignment for Matador U.