How to Avoid Awkward Airport Encounters

1. Walk around too fast. People at airports tend to dawdle, to meander, to amble. Avoid this at all costs. Walking slowly allows you to be caught by people you might know. Walking very fast and appearing to be late, frazzled, nervous or just weird will help to keep people from looking at you with too much concentration. Your face will also be blurrier.

2. Keep your gaze at far above or far below eye-contact level. Look for your flight on the screens repeatedly. Read your book while walking if you’re me.

3. Loiter in bathrooms. Peeing is healthy for you.

4. If you do encounter someone you know, have excuses at the ready. Make sure to have booked a seat in advance so that you don’t have to chummily sit together on the airplane. Drink lots of water so you can duck out and go pee during the conversation. Postpone any duty-free shopping until last possible minute for same reason.

5. In order to avoid steps 1-4, stop being a big baby and deal with the option of awkwardness. Remember that you are able to converse like an adult, that you are good at asking questions, and that you actually aren’t as anti-social as you sometimes think you are. Remember that you are ridiculous, suck it up, and take a deep breath. Things will be fine.

6. If step 5 doesn’t work, repeat 1-4 until step 5 becomes necessary once again.

Surrender

“Laptops out of your bags, please! Shoes off! Any liquids you’re carrying must be taken out and thrown away at this time! Let’s keep the line moving, people!” Ronald repeated the mantra every two to three minutes, pacing slowly back and forth in between the luggage screening and x-ray machines. He didn’t make eye contact with any of the travelers. He’d tried that when he’d first started the job but he’d learned that it was a mistake. There were only so many glares a guy could receive in a day before beginning to feel really down on himself. Everyone hates the TSA.
The monotony of the day was broken when, in the middle of Ronald’s speech, a woman screamed. He looked down from his eyes’ habitual staring space just above the crowd’s heads and saw a small man with sunglasses holding a gun to a woman’s head, right in the middle of the crowd. The woman screamed again.
Time didn’t slow down for Ronald. It didn’t speed up. It kept moving just like it always did, second by second. He put his hand on his regulation gun, but he had absolutely no intention of drawing it. He would let one of the others get to the attacker. He watched, brow furrowed, one leg thrust forward as if he was going to spring into action, but he didn’t actually move.
The crowd was scattering around the thin, lithe man. His face was hardly visible beneath the shades and behind the woman’s big, curly hair. The gun he was wielding looked unnaturally large in his pale hand, but the muzzle wasn’t moving from the woman’s temple. She was much bigger than the man, both broader and heavier than him, and the gun’s point was making a dent in her flesh. Her eyes were closed and her lips were moving silently now that she’d stopped screaming. Ronald thought she was praying.
He was calm, which was surprising. Nothing like this had ever happened on one of his shifts before. He tried to envision a scenario in which he wouldn’t go home that evening to the apartment he shared with his sister and his cousin but it seemed preposterous. He had to fight the urge to smile. He thought that maybe Ashton Kutcher would jump out from behind one of the trash cans and tell them all that they’d been Punk’d. None of this seemed real, mostly because it was so very realistic.
The little man with the gun was still, just standing there, calmly, facing the TSA workers and holding the woman’s arm with his free hand. Someone, some vigilante from the crowd, was sneaking up on him, but the little man, in a movie-like moment that Ronald wanted to applaud, butted his head back hard and hit the vigilante’s nose. The vigilante reeled back with a moan of pain, his nose pouring blood.
The redness of the blood changed the game, and all of a sudden it seemed that there were security personnel all over the place, all of them aiming at the little man and pointing their guns at him. Ronald drew his gun out too, gingerly, making sure to point it at the floor and keeping both his pointer fingers well away from the trigger even though that was the most comfortable place to rest them.
The little man shoved the woman away from him. She fell onto her knees and crawled into the crowd, not bothering to get up. Ronald could see the cleft of her swaying breasts through the cut of her dress and looked away quickly, feeling indecent.
Security personnel approved and tried to keep coaxing the gunman, telling him to lower his gun. The man didn’t. Instead, he pointed it right at Ronald and smiled. Now his face was visible, and Ronald could see that the man’s mouth was thin, almost lipless, but that his teeth were perfect. He’d had orthodontia. For a strange reason, Ronald envied the gunman for those teeth. His own were a hideous mess that he was ashamed of but his mother hadn’t believed in putting bits of metal into children’s mouths. The real reason for this disapproval, Ronald suspected, was that they hadn’t had the means to pay for braces.
The gun was fired, and then another and another and another. Ronald’s gun was still pointed at the floor and no bullet pierced his body. The security personnel, three of them, had shot down the gunman the moment they saw him pull the trigger. They walked closer to the fallen man, none of them realizing yet that Ronald was both unhurt and walking towards his would-be killer with them.
The little man was still smiling and the gun was still in his hand. Out of the gun had popped a little white flag.

To Berlin!

Yes, it’s true, I’m going abroad tonight! Again! I know, I know, this is getting insane… But to be fair, this time I’m using my mileage on Swiss-Air to fund a flight! And I’ll remind you all again that flying to Europe from Israel is much less hassle that from North America, or indeed, Australia/New Zealand. It’s about three and a half hours to Frankfurt, where we switch planes and fly to Berlin.

Yes, this is the third trip abroad that Sir B. F. and I are undergoing together! The first two were to London, England, a place we both love beyond measure. London is fantastic city, absolutely amazing in everything from culture to architecture. But we’ve “done” London twice, and we decided we need a change.

Sir B. F. has a family member who’s relatively wealthy and he has an apartment in Berlin which we can stay in – there’s no way we could have succeeded in funding this trip if we’d had to stay in hotels. Even the cheapest of hotels cost about 100 Euro a night. But no, we get our own cozy little apartment in Charlottenburg, and we have the Schloss Charlottenburg, which is a palace with extensive gardens, right in our own neighborhood! It’s definitely a perfect location for us  – it’s quiet, so we can rest peacefully at night, but close enough to transportation so that we can get right into the centers of Berlin.

While I’m gone, I will try to keep up with everyone’s blogs as often as I can – and yes, I’m still visiting your blogs, but I’m just commenting less. I want to keep my circle of friends here, and I know that in the bloggy-world, the first sign of waning friendship is less commenting – so I truly do apologize, and I’ll do better in future!

I’m also going to try to write a bit (or a lot) while I’m there. I’m bringing my trust netbook, and we have internet in our apartment – plus, there’s neighbourhood-wide wifi connections in some areas of Berlin! Now that’s a service that I think every city should adopt. But back to the point of this paragraph – writing! I’ve already started my travel journal, which I intend to write in as extensively as possible, and if I have time then I’ll also try to continue with my own project which has slowed down a little, although things are getting clearer and closer to an ending, at which point I’ll finally be able to start working on a second draft! Woo!

And so I leave you now to tackle the rest of my day and half the night, as I wait impatiently for my exciting vacation to begin.

Travel Fever

There are two kinds of travel fever, as far as I am concerned.

The first is the one that can be a curse, but is ultimately a good feeling. It’s that itch, that undefinable wiggle in your heart that tells you to go, to get out, to move, to travel, to be somewhere else. It’s that feeling that begins to mount inside your chest two or three months before the blessed event of the vacation or trip – that stomach-leaping, heart-racing, whoop-of-excitement sort of fever that grips you joyfully in moments when you don’t expect it. It’s that feeling of anticipation that’s almost unbearable because it’s so wonderful and intense.

Then there’s the second kind of travel fever. This is the kind that is only a curse, and comes with some similar symptoms. This time, though, the stomach leaps with fear and nerves, the heart races with anxiety and worry and the sound caught in the throat is more of a moan, a stifled sigh, a cry of dismay and exhaustion and an instinct that says that home is the best and travel is unneeded, a hassle and a trial. It’s the kind of travel fever that puts the entire household into a bad mood, that makes the various packers snap at each other and rush around trying to recover lost objects while inevitably finding them in the entirely wrong place and blaming everyone else for it. It’s the feeling that grips your very guts as you push yourself through the various tasks and chores of lugging, checking in, being polite to security and trudging around dismal shops in the airport.

I am in the grips of this second travel fever. My mother and I fly to New York tonight in order to complete that dreaded chore – vacating my dorm room and putting all my things in storage to await my return, hopefully, in the fall. We will be flying back on Friday, and this is most assuredly not a pleasure jaunt but more of a necessary and emotionally painful inconvenience. Hopefully, all will go well and we’ll suffer no travel delays due to various weather conditions!

Jasmine’s Alarm

Jasmine lay on her back with her head turned to one side, looking at the big red numbers of the electronic alarm clock. 6:57AM. She turned her head the other way, her eyes falling on the back of Jordan’s head. He lay beside her, on his stomach, just barely snoring as he slept. One of his arms was tucked close to his side while the other was flung out casually, resting on Jasmine’s stomach above the thin blankets that covered them both. Three more minutes, Jasmine knew, and the alarm would ring.

She shifted her eyes back to the clock and then to the bare ceiling above, slightly stained from that leak that Jordan had discovered last year but had done nothing about. She pondered the stain for a moment, thinking again how much Jordan needed her when it came to stupid things like taking care of his rented flat, before another image came to her mind and made the stain blur as her eyes lost focus. The image was of a large, rectangular room. In one corner, next to one small window, was her bed. Two more beds and two desks separated it from her desk, by the corner next to the door. She then thought of her roommates – one whom she liked a great deal and another whom she pitied for her lack of style and seeming lack of the capacity to relax. She thought next of the pile of books under her bed, books she’d barely glanced through at all this year.

The next image that came to her mind was that of Jordan again, but this time a fuzzy Jordan in the screen of her computer, speaking to her through a web-cam image, as he’d been doing for the last month. She hated the way he looked in that camera image – like a pale ghost, disfigured by the insecure Net connection. Just then, Jordan turned her head towards her in his sleep and she saw his real face and the lovely, normal color of his skin.

She tore her gaze away from his face, soft with sleep, and looked back at the clock. 6:59AM. She thought of the airport, the bustle and hassle, the packing she still had to do and the bother it would be to lug all her things down the stairs. All at once, she made a decision. With a deft flick of her finger, she turned the knob on top of the clock from “ON” to “OFF.”

When Jordan woke her with a panicked tone of voice four hours later, she pretended to panic too. “But the alarm-” she said. “What happened to the alarm?” It was no good panicking, though. She’d already missed the flight. Jordan confessed to her that night that he was secretly glad that the alarm hadn’t gone off. Jasmine smiled and kissed him, leading him by the hand into a dimly lit pub where music was blaring and a young crowd was milling about. All feigned upset and distress were gone from her face and she drew him close to her, holding a beer in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. This was the life, she thought. This was the life.

Chicago-Bound

It’s time to get going again. I’m packed, mostly, and my carry-on bag is as of yet non-existent. Those things don’t worry me though. By now, I’m a pro at closing up suitcases and backpacks and getting out of the house and into a waiting taxi at 3AM as I’ll be doing tonight. The thought of boarding a plane and beginning the journey to the United States is what worries me at the moment. Not so much the fear of being struck by lightning [though I must say that plane that disappeared has made me fearful] as much as the fear of tedium and inactivity.

I’ve gone on and on about flights before now, and so I’m not going to tackle this issue now. What I am going to substitute it with, though, is the matter of long layovers. Long layovers that aren’t long enough to warrant leaving the airport, but are plenty long enough to make the travel-time seem just about endless. This is the kind I will have on this flight – a four hour layover in Zurich. The Zurich airport is an odd one – pristine and clean-cut, long [a.k.a endless] hallways leading to the gates and bathrooms that seem to be tucked away from the normal person’s eyesight as if by spite.

However, I’m comforting myself with the fact that my mother and I are both word-lovers, and so we’ll spend our time by doing crossword puzzles and playing the brilliant card game called “Quiddler.” If any of you love words, I recommend you buy Quiddler right now. It’s brilliant.

Hopefully I’ll be writing fairly regularly, and maybe even with interesting stories or tidbits from my trip!

Halfway ‘Round the World

Flying is a journey that begins hours before it is actually underway with packing, passport gathering, and final checks of house and pets and luggage. Once the keys lock the door and the luggage is in the taxi, it is still only the merest beginning of the ordeal. Airports are no picnic, and the security in Israel is stricter than most places. Young, post-military-service men and women look at the passports in an  appraising, ask if you’ve packed your own bags, and explain that they’re asking because you might have taken something from someone that you deemed innocent but would actually be dangerous.

A few lines, machines, check-ins and difficulties later, the next part of the trip begins: the perils of the Duty-Free Shopping Area. While many are drawn to this most dangerous of all airport pursuits, my mother and I are not among those many – in fact, quite the opposite. While others might stroll up and down the lanes of various James Richardsons and Tommy Hilfigers and The-Tie-Shops, we huddle in the most remote of coffee-shops, sip our beverages, and try to hide from the too-alert-for-this-hour shoppers.

Next, of course, is the constant peering at watches and clocks, the straining of the ears to hear the garbled messages that come over the loudspeaker, and, in the end, the walk to the right gate quite a while before boarding starts, just so we won’t be late. Here, again, begins the process of tickets, passports, lines and shuffling forward one step at a time, until our feet actually set upon the cheaply carpeted floor of the airplane, and we find our cheaply leathered or upholstered seats. Setting our behinds down in those, we ready ourselves for the many, many, many hours ahead.

All this was just the beginning.