23 October 2016

Layover 2

I'm in O'Hare on a layover and I'm in motion. I'm unrushed, having made my way through passport control with plenty of time to spare. I'm making my way to a flight to Seattle. The day seems bleak, the sky is grey, and the air is cold. I'm overtired. Walking through an airport can be an overstimulating experience: the people rushing around, the din of announcements. I feel disconnected from it all, moving steadily, the rush surrounding me.

I'm changing terminals. Boarding attendants are yelling and pointing down the crowded platform trying to maximize the number of bodies they can get onto the train that connects international arrivals and domestic departures. Standing on the train, I stop for the first time since I handed my paperwork to the border patrol agent.

As the doors are closing, a man runs through. The trains run every four minutes. There's really no need to do this, but that's the way this shit is done. If four minutes is really going to make a difference, the flight has, effectively, already been missed. There's no buffer for a slow person on a moving sidewalk, an unforeseen gate change, or a broken escalator.  It's the sort of thing that I sigh inwardly at, but move on from, because it's a pattern I see again and again. I'm still in my overtired fog, standing, facing the door, feeling little, saying nothing.

Now the doors are really really on the verge of closing. There's a clatter as a woman comes barreling through. The doors close on her arm and spring back open. It's loud, jarring, and unexpected. Words cannot express the momentary shock that I feel. The fog has vanished. With the doors reopened, she gets on the train

"That door closed on me," she says to her companion, the man who just made it through the door earlier. Her voice begins to take on more of an aggrieved tone, "You didn't have to get on this train!". The man brushes it off wordlessly, and fortunately an argument does not erupt.

But I wonder what it's like to be so determined, like the man, or feel so tethered, like the woman. Each of them had an opportunity to not get on that train and if they operated in a world where the most valued elements were order and safety, they wouldn't have. They both did though, and they did it together, though not without strife.

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