"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Thursday, April 25, 2013

When airports are better than convents on Pluto

caribou coffee
You know it’s going to be an epic day when you actually go to Caribou Coffee like a normal human being. Not as the token “here, I spent $3 so I can use your Internet for the next 7 hours straight while I see 3 shifts of workers come and go and pretend I’m homeless,” but real live, “I woke up at 5 a.m. and am getting coffee like the elite urban socialite I am while drinking it in my snazzy car on my way to my awesome life.”

It’s a truly empowering feeling.

Actually, if I were the Instagraming type, I’d have made my roommate photograph-and-photo-filter the occasion with her plaid-backed iPhone for the world to see, but I don’t really see the point of documenting my eating habits like some sort of exotic zoo animal: “Here sits college graduatus adventurous, thriving in her native habitat on the addictive, mind-altering drink of her people.”

Not something to be proud of.

But we only went to Caribou because we decided an audacious day needed to start with a scandalously expensive coffee, and with a quick hug to my roommate and toss of the empty almond latte container into the garbage, I passed through sliding doors into yet another adventure—the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport on my trip to Orlando. Though my flight didn’t leave until 2:56 p.m., I was walking through the doors at 7:14 in the morning due to my roommate’s work schedule, which meant I was set for one of the best days I could remember in a long while:
Reading. All day. Reading. All. Day.

Seriously, this was going to be incredible.

But first, I had to get to my gate. Happily, my roommate and I couldn’t remember which terminal I was supposed to be in, so we obviously went to the wrong one (in accordance with the 50-50-90 rule: if you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong), which meant I was able to embark on the glorious adventure of wandering about, finding the Light Rail, riding it the wrong way, turning around and riding it back (sneaking about hoping no conductor would ask about the ticket I was then supposed to have by riding the wrong way into the city, while preparing a long defensive speech in my mind in case he did), nearly walking into a glass door (not my fault, obviously, as it wasn’t well marked), going up the wrong escalator, riding it back down, and finally arriving at my correct terminal.

Apparently the coffee hadn’t particularly helped me wake up.

But it didn’t matter, because after the Light Rail I had come to one of the best things an airport has ever invented: the moving sidewalk. Seriously, it’s like having seven league boots. Forget the fact that walking on my own power would be all healthy and good exercise and whatever, because if you have the choice between exercising and being super awesome magical, I’m totally going with super awesome magical. So I pounded along on that sidewalk, the only person on the entire thing, no one to slow down my flight, reveling in the fact that every step whooshed me an extra 10 feet down the hall like a superwoman.

The worst part, of course, was getting off, because I’ve never quite gotten over my little girl 5-year-old fear that I’d get sucked under the conveyer belt or trip or not coordinate all my steps right and fall in a disastrous heap, even despite the helpful disembodied voice shouting overhead, “WARNING! YOU ARE COMING TO THE END OF THE SIDEWALK! WARNING!” I always hated that voice. It was sort of like someone saying, haha, so sad, no more magic for you.


But even with magical powers stolen from me when I step off (barely), I continue on. At 7:32 a.m., there’s not a single person in the security line, so after I strip off my coat and my shoes and my cell phone and my purse and my one-quart bag of carefully measured liquids and whatever other murderous items I have in my purse, I start a lively chat with all the TSA agents within earshot. How are you? Is it always this quiet? How long have you been here? Isn’t this fun? And we chat and talk and laugh and I proclaim that my flight isn’t leaving for nearly eight hours. Eight hours! I crow. And then another five hours to my final destination! And I brought five books! Five! And my Nook! And my Bible! This is bliss.

The blonde TSA agent who’d brushed the dirt off my jeans a minute earlier stared at me open mouthed, probably considering whether she should shuttle me through the security check again. Clearly something was wrong with me mentally. Don’t you want to look around? Go shopping? You could try the overlook in the other terminal. You couldn’t possibly want to sit in that seat at the gate for the next eight hours.

Oh, yes I could. Just you watch.

And two hours later, I’m doing exactly that. The seat beside me is strewn with the evidence—one teal pen nearly dry and another blue pen not so dry and my Nook turned on to one book of the Bible and my travel Bible opened to another, then the journal lying smashed on its face full of scribbles a few inches away while The Omega Conspiracy lies staring up at me in my lap, and the page protector full of sticky flags used and reused since freshman year of college four years ago with a half-eaten apple on the ground and my feet dangling over the armrest as I sit propped to the side. And no one knew me! No one would talk to me or bother me and my phone is something King Tut would’ve used so no one will text or call and I can’t check Facebook, and it’s basically like living in a convent right in the middle of Minnesota (even better than the one I’d often threatened to start on Pluto).

And there were still 10 hours of reading to go.

One week later, I walked back into the MSP airport, Hubert Humphrey Terminal, not even burned from the Orlando sun, having satisfactorily completed fully four of the five books brought along (all 374 pages of The Hunger Games read in one fell swoop) and plowed well into the fifth. My brain had more information than it could hold, I’d drained two pens dry, and life was very, very good.

And within hours of returning to my apartment, I was tempted to start at least another, oh, three or four books.

Which is why I’ll have to go on another flight sometime soon.