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Don't Miss Your Connection
Hordes of frustrated, impatient, hurried people scurrying through the compound as if it were a beehive under attack by an emaciated bear having stumbled upon a bundle of salvation. Bouncing off of each other in haste while lugging parcels of their unneeded belongings; driven by their irrational fear of missing, in their minds, the only opportunity in the duration of the earth’s existence to get to their vacations, business obligations, and family gatherings. More literally, they are guided by armies of synthetic red strips affixed to metal poles and enormous bright colored signs that do little to comfort those trying to find their departure site, as if encrypted in some alien language intent on misleading. The only concern second to meeting their time deadlines is whether or not there will be enough time to satisfy their insatiable desire to consume fat and sugar saturated food; to numb their unhappiness, stresses and worries with alcohol; and view media on the newest, most portable electronic device available. Slaves to time, it’s not surprising that these folks need to find vices such as food, liquor and technology to distract them from the never-ending grind of being human.
As far as I’m concerned, all of the above succeed in making the process of getting from one set of coordinates on a map to another rather unpleasant for someone like me, who seems to be the only one capable of understanding the
meaningless trivialities that humans show such a tendency to carry out. Do I fall into any of the above circumstances I just described? Most certainly yes; however, today I travel neither for pleasure nor work. My transportation via airplane, perhaps the least favorable of all methods of transport, is not what one would call voluntary. I am guided by an unbreakable devotion and connection that will not cease to detain and smother my spirit and vitality until I can lay it to rest. That’s enough about me and my matters though, for in the situation I am currently in there are far more pertinent observations and considerations to be made. For instance, I find myself now walking into the waiting area next to Gate 23 where Flight 815 to Boston, Massachusetts, scheduled departure time 12:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, will be departing. Being 10:07 a.m. now, I am far ahead of schedule, having awoken at 4:00 a.m. to ensure all was in order and to prepare for my travel. This leaves me approximately two hours and twenty-three minutes to endure this unpleasant environment, where the dozens of steel cylinders propelled by thousands of gallons of flammable liquid are the least of my concerns.
As a result of my punctuality, I now have the privilege of selecting the seat I am to wait in before my departure, which is now two hours and nineteen minutes away. I will stop informing you of the time as of this point, and will assume you are keeping track for yourself on some form of timekeeping device, be it a stop watch, digital clock, sundial, etc. I will seat myself in a far back corner of the waiting area, next to the entrance onto the plane where I will hand my ticket to the person behind the counter, furthest away from the highest density of people that will be waiting to board. I decide this having formed an equation last night, which took into consideration the details I could remember from the last time I made this same flight, including the layout of the terminal, and approximate number of people that will be waiting at this time of day. My bag is stored under the seat now and I can finally relax for a second, having traveled quite a distance from my house, and expelled quite a large amount of energy to reach this checkpoint in my journey. It is odd how more energy is expended on my part to get from my house to the airport than is for me to fly almost six hundred miles. Speaking of energy, I have a quite noticeable hunger now and think I will seek out some nourishment. I saw a store back towards the bathrooms that seemed to have some palatable and healthy dishes. It is best that I go now, for I cannot leave my bag unattended in my seat, nor can I risk losing my seat to some other traveler who may have performed a similar formula to mine beforehand and wishes to steal my seat. Luckily, I know what I am to order, as I decided while I performed a visual inspection of the business earlier when making my way towards the waiting area. It should take me approximately six minutes to get there and receive my food, and then another fifty or so seconds to return to my seat. Hopefully in that amount of time I do not lose my seat, as I was unable to leave my bag under it, and it won’t be clear that I have chosen to sit in it if someone were to come along in the next few minutes. As I walk to the counter, my feet are making very pronounced sounds on the hard linoleum floor. I keep expecting those around me to look up, point, and shout, “Stop that man for making so much noise!” Although that’s improbable, I am quite unhappy with the noise that is being produced and I am beginning to reconsider my shoe choice. I wore my dress shoes today because I thought they portrayed the best image of me, although the opinion of those around me during my travel should not have been my highest priority. I should have worn my running shoes. My feet are already quite sore from all the walking, and the rubber souls of sneakers, had I worn them, would have decreased the sounds being emitted almost entirely. Now arriving at the counter, I order. The man behind the counter is about thirty years old and dressed in a bright orange, striped uniform, with the restaurant’s name
written on the breast, and his name right below that. From his name I can tell that he is probably of South American decent, and judging by his age and occupation, he probably had some trouble maintaining his grades in school and did not make it to a higher level of education. I’m feeling a sense of sympathy and sadness for this man’s misfortune expanding in my chest, and quickly place my order. Stepping to the side, I look at my watch and then back over at my seat, which I can see is still vacant. Hearing my number called, I walk several feet to the right and receive a bag with my food in it. After noting again the noise produced by my shoes, the soreness of my feet, and the quickly increasing number of people around me as the day ages, I look up and see the back of a dark-haired man making his way to a seat, my seat. Well...possessions are a funny thing. What really defines whether one has the sole right to an item, or area of land? In my opinion, unless a man found the seed that grew the tree for every piece of wood in his house, and likewise for all other materials, and then constructed the house on a piece of family-owned land that has existed for hundreds of years, then the house is not his. I know this is an unreasonable hyperbole, but I exaggerate to prove my point. Anyway, ownership doesn’t apply in this situation because I have no legal entitlement to this two foot square piece of floor, nor to the seat that is affixed to it. Although normally I would panic, and scramble to find another seat with a similar alienation from people, annexed to the greatest extent possible, today I feel an unfamiliar sense of confidence. I address the man, “Sir, would you mind...I had decided on sitting in that seat before your arrival, and made residence at it a quite short time ago, having left to get the food I hold in my hands now. Would you mind relocating to another seat so I can continue with my intended plan of waiting out the remaining one hour and eleven minutes until my...our...flight departs?” Considering the attentiveness and modesty of my approach when addressing the man, one would think he would have no problem moving. After an awkward pause that felt much longer than the seven seconds it
lasted, the man replied, “Why should I move? You left no indicator on the seat that it was occupied, and I had no way of knowing that anyone was sitting here. I have already settled my belongings and it would be much easier if you were to simply take another seat.” I am caught off-guard, as people usually take my timid, composed, and serious appearance with a sense of uncertainty and apprehension, thus heeding my requests. While I re-gather my thoughts and begin to form the next sentence in my head, the man responded again, “Here,
why don’t you sit next to me? We can chat a little and pass the time until our flight departs.” I sense a fragment of sarcasm and contempt in his voice, however his words seem to be encased in a vessel of subtle warmness and intrigue that I am not accustomed to. I agree to sit down, more out of fear for the man’s response to my refusal, than out of politeness and genuine interest in talking to him.
Without asking my name or reason for travel, the man asks, “So you’re traveling to New York on this pleasant morning? I think I’ll see the Empire State Building and Times Square today, how about you?” My stomach churns and a horrible sinking feeling begins to radiate from the center of my chest and through my extremities. Seeing the horrified expression on my face, the man’s lips curl to an almost indiscernible smile as if trying to hold back laughter. Realizing that I had just been victim to what is called a practical joke, my momentary fear transforms into anger for the man and his foolishness. With that I move two seats away and display an irate face to inform the man that I did not find his joke humorous, whatsoever. I should note now that humor, at the expense of others, is another one of the vices that humans use to alleviate and suppress feelings of unhappiness, self-consciousness and boredom; and I do not appreciate being the target of it. Quite taken aback by my reaction to his attempt at humor, the man’s face turns from anticipation and amusement to regret and concern. Adjusting my facial expression again, I let the man know that I can handle his humor as I wield a smugger and less offended expression. Relief rolls over his face, and his mouth curvature returns to baseline. I get up again and move one seat towards him, still separated by a single seat from the man. “Sorry,” he says, “I was just making a joke, but I can see that you took it seriously and that it caused you discontent, so I offer my apologies.” I ignore his apology, no longer seeing a reason to console the man after adjusting myself to better suit his reaction and seeing his relief. “What is your reason for travel?” I ask, watching his face closely for any more visual cues. “I woke up this morning and felt a yearning to explore somewhere in a northern direction and thought, ‘Why not Boston!’ and here I am.” Picking up on the man’s humor more immediately this time, and seeing no reason to be angered as it was not directed at me, I continue to look at the man, awaiting a more serious response. “I travel to visit my mother,” says the man. “She is ill, and I must be there to comfort her.” Now understanding the man’s reason for the humor, I relax my defenses and put on a softer face, awaiting more details. “She has been sick for quite some time, and now it is time that she be released from her ongoing suffering and pass on.” Sadness grows in me, and my face lets the man know that I understand the pain he is feeling. Odd how thousands of words back and forth can still leave two people mere strangers to each other; but in a moment of emotion and desperation, one glance can tune two people’s thoughts to the same frequency in an instant. Amidst the solemn silence that follows, I think of my own mother. I haven’t done so in quite some time, and I feel an unmanageable amount of guilt in this moment. The man is going to lose his mother soon, so affected by her imminent departure that he needs to find consolation with a complete stranger. On the other hand, I’ve avoided thinking about my mother at all until quite recently when her name was brought to my attention. I only lived with my mother until the age of eleven, when I moved from Boston to live with my father due to her “inability” to raise me properly, according to the legal system. As a result of this, she didn’t play as instrumental a part in my life as she should have, and at a certain point I began to stop thinking about her. She was a wonderful person, nonetheless, and just because financial stability never made it her way didn’t mean that she was any less suited to care for me than my father, who never quite found sobriety. It is this disfigured, abnormal parental situation that causes me to have trouble connecting with other humans, and makes it hard for me to see things the same way as others. The first connection one makes is with their parents, and from that connection others emerge in an interconnected web. If this connection is corrupted, especially in adolescence, the ripple effect it has on one’s other relationships is certainly negative; bathing relationships and connections to others in a negative, distorted light, and making complete trust virtually nonexistent. The importance of a stable relationship with one’s parental figures cannot be stressed enough. It is strange that now, of all times, while embarking on this journey, I reflect upon this. At the same time, I connect with another human, this strange man, for the only time I can remember since my youth.
Over twenty minutes have passed since our last words, both of us sitting in silence. The silence is then broken by a woman’s voice on a loud speaker that lets us know we will be boarding in another twenty minutes. Only now remembering the food I had purchased, what feels like days ago, still gripped tightly in my hands, my appetite is gone and I throw it in the waist receptacle. The man, looking down at his feet, appears to be deep in thought. I search for words but find none. For the first time, my systematic, detailed analysis of a situation will grant me no aid. I call off the search in my mind and sit back into my seat. Feelings of sorrow are still present, but a strange new feeling grows inside of me; one that can only be described as expansive, inclusive, and connective. I reflect upon the last twenty years of my life; middle school, high school, college and work. At almost no point in this time had I looked for assistance, friendship, or connection; relying only on my own guidance to direct me on the “right” path, through education, occupation, and relationships or lack thereof. Something is wrong, I begin to think. Less than an hour in the presence of this man and less than several hundred words exchanged has been more cathartic and eye-opening than all of the reflections, analyses, and dissections I have undergone thus far in my life.
The time has come. The same woman as before announces that boarding is beginning now. We both rise, making our way to the ticket line in silence, side-by-side and unified, tuned to the same channel. The line shortens, and with our
departure near, I think back one last time to my previous ways of thinking; the fears, weaknesses, needs and ignorances that dictated my life for all those years. Handing my ticket to the woman behind the counter, I lag a second while the man does the same. I step over the rubber barrier that marks the beginning of the gate onto the plane. The curtains have been lifted for me, and as the two of us go to lay our mothers to rest, I know that this marks a monumental change in my life. Although this notion scares me more than one could imagine …or maybe…I am comforted by the fact that I can now bring a few companions on this strangely designed thing called life.