As I write this, I am stuck on an airplane full of Southerners that is parked in a FedEx cargo hold in a remote part of the airport in Greenville, NC. My flight to Portland is leaving from Atlanta, which is 80 miles east from where I sit. To put it mildly, I don’t want to be here. In addition to the general inconvenience, the crying babies and my desire to get to Portland, I’m also made uncomfortable by the presence of all the southern accents. I don’t know what it is exactly, but these days I feel a palpable distaste and scorn for all things southern. I know that it is a sweeping generalization, but I equate Southerners with George W. Bush’s presidential victories, aggressively righteous Christians and Wal-Mart.
**I just overheard a woman state to her group of co-workers, “I drive church vans!”
Christian stereotype confirmed!
This is the first time since I was 7 years old and a thunderstorm delayed our (my mom, my sister and I) flight from Philly back to LA, that I have had flight difficulties. On my return from Indonesia four years ago, I was bumped from the final connecting flight of my journey, which bugged the shit out of me, but didn’t delay me too much. Those flights ran every hour, so I was able to get on the next one.
I don’t see getting to Portland tonight to be in my future.
There is a little boy, probably 2 ½ or so, dressed in baseball uniform pajamas who has made two trips up and down the isle, with his father in tow. He is adorable and is grinning delightedly at all the people who are smiling at him in appreciation of his unabashed innocence. The only one who is untouched by his beatific gaze is the baby wailing with discomfort in the last row of the plane.
My best flight ever was one from Chicago to Philadelphia, in the late summer of 2001, but I didn’t know that it was my best flight until a year ago. I sat next to a woman and her daughter, and we chatted from take off until landing. I had been in Indonesia earlier in that summer for the Subud World Congress and was left extra open to conversations that were able to go deep, wide and spiritual. We talked openly about looking for community and feeling of connectedness. I told her about growing up Unitarian Universalist and how it had given me the ability to look at world religions with an accepting and open attitude (despite opinions voiced in the above paragraph). That I had been taught that the most important thing was to ask questions, think critically and make a choice based on something greater than rote knowledge. I then told her about Subud, and it’s ability to give one a sense of spirit within your body. She told me about her childhood as a fundamentalist and the understanding she had come to as a teenager that it wasn’t the path for her. Her exploration of yoga and her desire to find a welcoming community for her daughter. When the flight landed, we parted warmly, and I gave her my contact information, just for kicks. Last spring she called me. To tell me that she had started going to a Unitarian church in Chicago. To tell me that meeting me on that airplane had changed her life. That doesn’t happen much in life. You don’t normally hear back from the people upon whom we make an impression. Having her call me confirmed my feeling that it all isn’t random, that there is some order and importance to the people who drift in and out of our lives.
I spent last night in the airport. I could have gotten a hotel room at a discount rate, but that option didn’t materialize until 1 am, and at that point they had me booked on a 8 am flight, and it didn’t really make sense to leave, only to return six hours later. I’m now on at 9:44 am direct flight to Portland and I’m really regretting that I didn’t take that hotel room. I slept about three hours on the floor of terminal B, sleeping for 40 minutes and then waking from the noise or the temperature or the numbing of limbs. At this point I’m really looking forward to getting on an airplane, because it’s got to be more comfortable than my last eight hours on the floor.