It has long been fascinating to me that among the things that musicians like to sing about the most is the loneliness of the road. I have occasionally tried the experiment of writing liveblogs over the course of traveling to the Feast of Tabernacles, but although the experience of traveling is exciting and interesting for me, it is not usually as interesting to other people, as the majority of people who are interested in it are themselves engaged in the same process of traveling and are not at leisure (or around good enough wi-fi) to read and enjoy such commentaries themselves. As it happens, though, it is 3:30 in the morning and I find myself alone at an airport gate that is in a quiet part of the airport that is not currently under construction and like the Talking Heads, I wonder, how did I get here?
Like many people, I am not by nature a morning person. If I love traveling, and I do, even though it is not always a pleasant experience, the joys of traveling do not include waking up early to find oneself to be nearly alone in the giant spaces of airports, although it must be admitted that being among the few early risers headed to other parts of the globe makes going through the security line more pleasant as there are not the same long lines to get through that particularly aggravating process. As it is, I am sitting in a place where there are about five people around me and all of us appear to be of a mind to stay relatively quiet and enjoy the serenity of an hour and a half or so before we get onto our plane to Los Angeles.
While the opportunities for people watching are therefore less than would be the case normally, such opportunities still exist. When I arrived at the airport just before 3AM, delivered by a close friend of mine who is off to the same destination I am (though his flight is a bit later in the day), only the construction workers and the first few of us early morning travelers were present. I tried to check in at the kiosk but was told by the machine that my check-in required assistance, and so I had to wait until just after 3AM for the Alaska Airlines check-in crew to arrive before I could complete my check-in process. So it was that I found myself inline with a motley crew of other passengers being helped to various places, and the check-in crew expressed frustration at the noise coming from the ongoing airport construction, enough that I noticed on it and commented on it with them as I answered the routine questions about not having anything dangerous in my luggage.
It was after that when I went with my passport and boarding pass in hand to the security line. My fellow passengers, as one might imagine, were as sleep deprived as I was, and the line itself was held up by a Mexican gentleman (he was going on the same flight that I am and I saw his Mexican passport as we were waiting in line for Alaska Airlines) who was unable to understand and thus comply with the instructions. Without having any check-in bags, he apparently had put a bottle of mouthwash larger than 3 ounces in one of his carry-on bags which was sure to be confiscated by the TSA crew, and he had not understood the need to take everything out of his pockets, and so he was held up at the scanner as it picked up something in his pockets when he had said that he had “nothing” in them. One wonders to what extent that the man’s problems, which were soon to involve a detailed investigation of his bags as well as his person, were more due to the problems of communication given his imperfect command of the English language and how much were due to the habits he had evidently acquired to lie to security personnel.
At any rate, I am aware that the thoughts I have as a traveler about the experience of traveling and about the people I observe and interact with along the way are mainly of interest only to those who are fellow travelers and who share the same spaces and experiences that I do. A great many people do not select themselves in such a fashion, and that is okay as well. We can only write about what we know, and it is little wonder that people who are creative and who find themselves dealing with the solitude of so much of the travel experience, where in cars and buses and trains and planes we find ourselves together alone with the other people who are engaged in the same journeys that we are should want to express it, or that so few people would be interested in reading about it.