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Home is Where the Heart is
The drive. That’s the part that always gets me. A car has the most damning ability to make time pass both quirkily quickly and abominably slowly. It accelerates the total time yet minutes turn to hours and seem like years while sitting idly in the back of an overly cramped silver sedan. I’ve always liked travelling, finding a special insight, astounded how all these different worlds can coexist together in relative harmony (with a few notable exceptions.) But to all these worlds I’ve visited, which natives all call their home, not one has been my home, or home away from home for that matter. After all, home is where the heart is, right?
My maternal unit was never one for road trips. My poor dad will never fulfill his Winnebago fantasy—though I haven’t yet mustered the heart to tell him that. My mom is paranoid about airplanes as well, thinking she’ll die in some spectacular fashion. For some incomprehensible reason, however, she seems to risk death for speed. I stared out the window only to be rewarded with the less than cheerful sight of deadlocked traffic. A woman in an obese white pick-up truck plopped her pencil-like leg up on the dash and began to shave while shouting at someone on her hands-free head set. It always makes me nervous, seeing that leg up on the dashboard – it was further exacerbated by the fact that at first I didn’t see the headset so she just looked schizophrenic. Traffic was always bad on the way to the airport. Those hours I mentioned earlier are exaggerated a thousand-fold in traffic. The monotony of it all only serves to snuff out any motivation to do anything – reading, sleeping, staring, eating, talking, arguing, thumb-twiddling, pointless—the whole lot of it.
Then the traffic finally clears like what happens to congestion after one takes a decongestion pill. There’s a bizarre sense of relief, almost like I’m floating (ignoring for a moment that in some respects, I actually am), as the speed picks up to an illegal pace (though all the cool people are doing it.) Of course, as with most medication, the relief doesn’t last long and the off ramp is swollen with pus, or as I like to call them, cars. It thickens and coagulates into an ugly, depressing, and noisy clot of machine producing more than one kind of pollution with all hooting, honking, and hollering. Horns should come with volume control and should lock out after excessive honking. There’s got to be money in that. At last, a dose of a green light flushed out the infectious red that was causing the traffic stop. We were on our way to the airport.
There’s a strange sort of smell that infiltrates a car during the long haul. It’s almost imperceptible – ethereal even, but it’s undeniably there, lurking. It’s the smell of something not being right—that this isn’t home. Not by a long shot. This is only a nagging smell though, often masked by the stench of roadside food and the overuse of deodorant (axe body spray in particular.) Though as bad as this combo is, it’s not exactly lethal, however, the former is.
The air of a car ride isn’t anything to be excited about either. Too stuffy. I guess that’s why they gave the car windows. See the problem with windows is that when they are rolled down, it gets rather windy. Hair blows around, can’t see, the car begins to swerve, and all of a sudden your plane tickets go flying out the window. Panic promptly ensues and the driver starts flipping out, yelling about the tickets when all of a sudden they didn’t realize traffic congested again and wind up ramming the car in front of them (the plane tickets might not be the only things flying out the window), totaling both cars. Not only is there now a legal issue, but the plane tickets are gone in case anyone was harboring any neat little ideas of escape. And all because it was just a little stuffy.
That’s why I was completely and totally relieved, as genuinely relieved as a prisoner getting off death row, when we at last reached the airport. It was huge, a colossal construct that’s very presence seemed to strike fear and wonder into even the most formidable of travelers. Its shadow was even more imposing, its grey shroud concealing the detailed landscape, exaggerated even further by the sinking sun. Those great convenient mechanical birds seemed infinitesimal in comparison to the hulking construct. A creeping feeling of regret, foreboding, or worry seems to always rear its wicked head. More a feeling of being trapped than anything else. You’re stuck in an entirely different part of the world and can’t magically teleport back to familiar territory.
Baggage check in always has to make its usual troublesome mistakes. Nothing too much to worry about. Now comes the fun part: the security check point. I have never liked flip-flops, sandals, or clogs, they always looked pretty silly (granted, crocs are worse) but at this point I’m getting rather jealous of these fellas. I’m in the line to be checked and realize I have to take off my shoes. Of course, this is always absurdly embarrassing. Earlier on my generic white laces (or maybe the were off-white, eggshell, or any number of other “shades” – I’ve never been good with color) were being little troublemakers, slippery little devils kept coming untied. So I, being clever chap I am, decided to tie them extra tight so they wouldn’t come off. Now my constricted laces decided to corrupt my shoes to their malicious cause by refusing to come off. So there I am, hopping about (rather reminiscent of the energizer bunny) in a desperate, albeit embarrassing, endeavor to take off my shoes. I almost fell but by some miracle I managed to save myself. The worst part is that some all-to-outgoing person behind me asked me if I needed help with my shoes. No one has asked me that since I was three. I elected to take this opportunity to physically honor those early years by plopping down on the floor and tearing off shoes using all the strength of an Olympian. Loosened, but not free, with one more fierce battle the shoe finally pops off. My foot is relieved. Now comes the next foot. This time I cleverly realized that I could untie the shoelaces. It was less time consuming, less satisfying, and overall less embarrassing, so it all worked out in the end.
I placed my obstinate running shoes on the tray and slid them through the x-ray machine. The guy right ahead of me began to make a bit of a scene. Some cold words were exchanged between him and the staff concerning his attire (the man happened to be rocking some chains.)
“Sir, you need remove all your metal items. Your metal chains included,” the staff member, labeled “Steve”, informed the strong-willed traveler.
“Lookie here pal, I got iron in my blood and calcium in my bones. Both are known metals. You are asking the impossible of everyone here, so I might as well leave my chains on.”
“Sir,” Steve said with a slight intonation of hostility, “if you do not comply with our standard safety regulations, you will have to be strip searched.”
“Oh strip searched my a**.”
“As you wish,” said Steve as he radioed security for backup. “These fine men are going to take you to the room on your right. They are going to check you for contraband. Enjoy your flight.”
Steve was roughly escorted to the room and that was the last I ever saw of him.
I passed through the metal detector with flying colors. I retrieved my shoes and sat down on the only available space on the bench between two strangers I didn’t know. To make matters worse, one had particularly disheveled facial hair. Something to style that please? Well naturally, feeling uncomfortable in the presence of strangers, I tried to quickly put on my shoes. I used some colorful language as, in my haste, when I put my shoes on, my heel collapsed the back of the shoe. I had to waste more time in this uncomfortable place. At long last, I succeeded in reattaching my shoe, it was like glomming on to an old friend. The other followed suit.
I rendezvoused with my two overbearing parents at gate seventeen. My mom had been complaining about being hungry the whole way over here, despite several pit stops. It wasn’t long before she cracked and just had to get some of that real high quality fancy-shmancy airport food and/or drink, and where better to do that than Starbucks Coffee? My mom waltzed up to the Starbucks staff, suave as can be and placed an order.
“Hi,” my mom began.
My mom, not one for pleasantries, cut off the staff member, “I’ll have a tall iced coffee in a grande cup with extra ice, three pumps hazelnut, two pumps classic, an inch of non-fat milk, extra whipped cream, and just a hint of caramel.”
“Yes ma’am” said the staff member, I could literally see the dread in her eyes. My mom just wandered around the vicinity of the pickup area, impatiently awaiting her titanic beverage. She began to stop in her place and tap her Ugg boot. That’s about when the loud speaker came on with a neat little caveat: our flight’s about to leave. Crisis.
“Hey could you guys go any faster?” asked my intensely inquisitive Mother. Her voice betrayed just a hint (much like her caramel) of fear over the plane’s shortening departure time. The staff began to scurry more quickly, almost dropping some vital items. My mom was rewarded with no verbal answer. Finally, the sweating staff gives my mom her drink, only it’s not her drink. The staff gave my mom the wrong order, she immediately knew it too. “This is not my tall iced coffee in a grande cup with extra ice, three pumps hazelnut, two pumps classic, an inch of non-fat milk, extra whipped cream, and just a hint of caramel!” she shouted as she thrust the drink back at the frenzied staff. “This is one of those frappucinos!” Then, suddenly my mom realizes that she has a plane to catch. She gives them the ol’ stink-eye and half-waddles half-runs off with her rue la la hand bag in her left hand and her frappucino in her right, attempting to keep as much in the cup as possible as she didn’t feel she had time to grab a lid. A funny sight, to tell the truth. She, realizing she’s not moving to quickly, yells to us, “Go on! Go without me! I promise I’ll make it!”
As I was running to the gate, dodging and dancing around the faceless and nameless people in the crowd, I got to thinking. This isn’t my home. At home I’m not really at home. In any country in the world, I’m not and can’t be at home. At the end of the day, it would seem as the only place one can seek refuge and truly call their home, is oneself. Home isn’t a frappucino and certainly not a strip search. Or maybe that’s just me. But after all, home is where the heart is and last I checked that’s in me.