Toddlers on a Plane

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there and why is it meaningful to you?

My family is anything but sedentary. Already in my life I have lived in Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and have found myself in England nearly every summer. I have explored the rainforests of Australia and New Zealand, braved the oppressive heat of Utah, wandered the packed and pulsing markets of Thailand, had a staring contest with the Mona Lisa, ridden a malevolent camel in Morocco, made popsicles for elephants at the San Diego Zoo, watched the colors and outlandish fun of the Brighton Gay Pride parades, traversed lush green slopes in Ireland and Scotland, floated with fish off the coast of Bermuda, gazed at ancient monuments in Greece, and spent many a night in dark airports because flights were unceremoniously delayed. Everywhere I go there is a distinct taste, smell, sight, and sound, the un-announced heartbeat and lifeblood of the culture, like a whisper so soft you can only feel it. Stagnancy, it seems, is the bane of my existence. And so, I suppose, that I why I am most content in one of the most hated places on the globe: the airport. Not because of the lines, the security, the dreaded TSA agents, the tiny cramped economy section, the lukewarm airline food, the twelve-hour flights, or the rushing to make connections and the incessant lines — like everyone else, I have no appetite for any of this — but because being there means that I’m going somewhere. I’m moving. I’m in motion. And I will soon be somewhere else entirely.

My parents love to tell the story of my first time on a plane. I was about one and a half, and they were extremely worried about the prospect of me crying and making a scene in a tiny cramped vehicle hurtling above the ground at an altitude of several thousand feet. But as soon as the plane took off, my parents couldn’t keep me in my seat. I was off down the aisle, meeting the people, taking my shoes off, and collapsing in fits of giggles every time somebody so much as even looked at me. Some nice lady even let me play with her makeup, so I probably wound up looking more like a demented banshee than a real human child. At the end of the flight, the captain even gave me his captain’s pin, which I still have today. I can just imagine myself, peeking my head around the door of the cockpit, eyes wide and surrounded by raccoon makeup circles, and the captain suddenly finding himself face-to-face with a shoe-less, unidentified child of unknown origin.

That was the start of my career on planes, and ever since I’ve found myself completely at home in them. Well, as much at home as I can be in the cramped economy section next to a person who may or may not have bathed in the last few days. But no matter how bumpy the ride gets, how uncomfortable the seat gets, how noisy the snoring gets, or how boring the flight gets, it doesn’t matter. There’s that untouchable feeling of an adventure just out of reach, which you’ll be able to grasp as soon as those wheels hit the tarmac and you finish taxiing in. I always get this image of Bilbo Baggins as he heads out of the Shire, or Harry Potter as he takes his first steps onto a Quidditch field, or even Doctor Who as he steps into his Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, ready to see what other wonders he can find. Admittedly, many of my own wonders are on Earth, but then again, it’s an incredibly beautiful place, and I know I will never be able to even begin to drink it all in. It doesn’t necessarily matter where I end up, be it Africa, India, Canada, South America, or even just a hop across a state or two. Just so long as I’m a body in motion. And, as we all know, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. So let’s just say I’m on my way.

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