It has been only five days since I was sitting on a shuttle on I-5 south headed from Bellingham to the SeaTac Airport, in a rush hour traffic jam, among disgruntled fellow passengers. From the NOLS group just finishing a trip in the Northern Cascades, to the young man nursing his buzz as he boards at a Reservation casino, answering phone calls to let his boys know he is flying back to L.A. from a short family vacation to “fucking kick it for a bit” before he gets back to studying for grad school, to the mom and her child vocally animating a distant world, the subtle vocalizations only discernible in this fundamental bond.
It seems strange that so little time has past, perhaps because I have felt so conscious in the moment of every moment that has passed since then. Travel is a strange phenomenon – especially travel via plane. Thousands of miles put behind you in just hours of time. Surely, the meaning of time changes when moving at this speed.
We pull into the Airport – I am the last to leave the bus. I thank the driver whose cool demeanor and witty jokes kept multiple tense bus riders at bay. The temporary assemblage of people on this vehicle vanishes as we join the converging crowd as it twists and turns into lines that soon evaporate as each individual embarks on their journey.
I follow the herd to the security checkpoint – magnetism has brought us here, and yet any encounter with the TSA results in a feeling of repulsion, as the butt-ends of magnets expose themselves to each other and attempt to pulse away. I fret over the potential encounters I may have regarding my oversized backpack. I am just planning my list of responses to the person that takes it upon themselves to uphold protocol. I pass through security unscathed, aside from an encounter with a TSA agent that calls me Eddie Vedder.
I continue to my gate and sit down to my laptop to begin sifting through photos from the Canadian Paddle trip. The next couple of hours go by quietly – I have arrived for my redeye early. Fridays are seemingly quiet at this time of day.
I am called up to the counter to be asked if I would consider taking a different flight for a travel voucher as this flight was overbooked. Interested, I explained my travel needs, the customer service agent took my name down, and I returned to my seat.
Boarding time has come I am asked to wait until all customers board the plane so that they can recount their numbers to see if my seat will be needed. At this time, they realize that eight people have not shown up for the flight. Bewildered they make a final boarding call to see who will show up. A couple of Ethiopians show up hurried, bidding goodbye to friends, and board the plane. The attendants begin to tell me to board the plane when a man appears at the gate, out of breathe, explaining that his family of six is around the corner and if they could be given a couple of minutes they will be able to board.
A couple of minutes go by, the flight attendants ask me to board the plane as they are locking the gate. The man begins to stand up straight from his hunched over position and tells the attendants that they have to wait. The attendants continue their instructions to me to board the plane. Then the oldest son arrives at the gate. The man continues his plea, his son’s arrival as testimony to his claims. The staff looks frazzled; they look at each other, ignore the man and tell me to board the plane. The tired man grows very angry, shouting about his loyalty to the airline, the miles he has traveled in the passed day, the thousands of dollars he has spent on this booking. Stunned, I stare.
One agent closed the door to a crack; another agent sternly motioned me forward, I slowly walked towards the door, my eyes fixed on the father of this family. A security officer had come to mitigate this argument, at this point it seemed that the officer would have to more restraining than mitigating, as he shouted at the heated man to step down. I walked through the door and heard it slam shut and lock behind me. I could not stop my forward movement, my eyes were fixed ahead, and my ears could no longer hear the shouts from just moments before.
I had difficulty sleeping on the plane, my mind continued to wander to that moment. The determined man, due to some combination of a confused instinctual drive and lack of sleep brought him to a display of anger that other believed would manifest itself physically. Veins showed in his temples, his clenched jaw exposed the muscles of its grip; his eyes were keenly focused on the object of his passion. It seemed strange to see such an expression of raw animalism in the sterile, fabricated environment of SeaTac airport, but here it was.
Perhaps I was so stuck and unable to leave my place in this moment because of my recent personal realizations of my own animal nature, my chemical dependencies on certain foods, the swings of my moods throughout the day, the self-realization of my biological clock, all animal in nature and all rapidly developing in my consciousness. It often takes the actions of others for me to develop realizations about myself.
So as I sit here, on the porch of a house in Stone Harbor that my parents have rented, I cannot help but wonder about the biological underpinnings of the interactions occurring daily in my family. Of course I do not mean to be reductionist in my perspective on these interactions, merely as all seven of us grow older I cannot help but wander what biological forces are at play. As time wears itself on us, the differences in our biology become all the more revealing.