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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Column: At the airport

I’m in the middle of the everyday hustle and bustle of the Sacramento International Airport.

There’s what looks like a father and daughter sitting down facing me. The girl, who appears to be in her late 20s, is talking about a non-profit medical organization while the older man listens attentively. A middle-aged man is an empty seat away from me to the right. He’s staring out toward the aisle – or rather, into space. There’s a large group of fourth graders clad in green, excited for a fieldtrip of some sort.

The only element that’s missing in this scene is an impending near separation of a couple – the melodramatic airport scene that often takes place at the end of a romantic comedy. Watching the stream of people flowing in and out of the gates, I’m anticipating a lonesome being to plop out of the crowd and profess their wrongdoings and ultimate love to their equally emotional other half.

For the “romantic” part of me, the airport tends to function as a type of metaphor for life, specifically the recent spring break. (As an English major, I have the urge to twist any noun into a metaphor for life).

When you’re at the airport, it’s about being in the moment. Daydream for a minute too long and you miss the flight. Sleep in too late and the same thing happens.

This is sadly all too true for spring break plans – or lack thereof. Miss a text message by an hour and the plans to make butter beer (Harry Potter nerds know what I’m talking about) have already taken place. Too lazy to set a date and searching for horchata becomes a failed attempt.

But at the same time, even if we’re all trying to “be in the moment,” everyone is living in a different moment, in a sense. (Not yet in a crazy sci-fi dual reality, though.) It’s like being at the airport and struck by the thought that there are multiple time zones across the world. We’re not living in “The Moment.” We’re living in each of our personal “My Moments.”

Within each of these moments, there’s that extreme urgency. We’re always in a rush. It’s the push to get to the departure gate the quickest – before it’s too late. When this drive is within you, it’s more effective (and way less annoying to me) than when this rush is against others. It’s a matter of a crowd of people all in a hurry to squeeze through the same, tiny gate. Everyone stumbles and falls and … gets their Converse Chucks dirty. But if you just go at your own pace at the proper time, then there’s much less of a mess.

In the midst of all this “living in the moment,” there’s also a constant thread of change unraveling. Change of flight. Change of gate number. Change of departure time.

It’s like when my roommate got an instant message from a girl she hadn’t had a conversation with in years over spring break. The girl asks her how everything’s going. All is well. A minute later, my roommate gets linked to a YouTube video of the girl singing. She wanted my roommate to watch her serenade, and then to create a YouTube account, subscribe to her and vote for her. Awkward and annoying much? In my mind, she’s living in her own little moment and in the wrong moment. She’s in too much of a hurry to get to that departure gate.

Catching up with friends is a staple for spring breaks. Nothing signals drastic change more than your friend wanting to talk only about relationships and guys. All you want to talk about is speculation regarding the second half of season one of “Glee.”

To me, airports provide the perfect place for contemplation (including contemplation about Hollywood airport scenes). There’s only a certain amount of catching up you can do, until it’s just too late. Especially in college, people are constantly coming in and out of our lives. They’re boarding on and off, looking to catch up to the jets as they miss the moment, going way too fast.

TIFFANY LEW blames her romantic perception toward airports on John Denver’s classic song “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” It was that first line about his bags being packed that did it for her. E-mail her at tjlew@ucdavis.edu.


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