I’m writing this from Vienna Airport. (Bless you, free WiFi, for not letting me die of boredom on long connections.) I’ve just come off my 50th flight ever and, since I’m ridiculously attracted to significant numbers, I’ve been reviewing my flying history.
It was magical at first and I was terrible at it. The very first time I flew, I needed help with the seat belt – and I was fifteen. I was constantly stripped of liquids and fluids just above the volume limit and I forgot jewelry on as I went through security. I was always the one staring helplessly at announcement panels and airport maps and, after running through Schiphol to make my connection, I handed the flight attendant the book I was reading instead of the boarding card. But I was fascinated with the flight itself, to the point of trading places with strangers just to stare out of the window.
Then it became routine. I learned to pack a week’s worth of clothing in a miraculously expanding backpack and leave all “dangerous” items on top, for easy access. I got to know a few airports like the back of my hand and got a general feeling of how others were organized, trying to always beat my own record on how fast I can spot the bus stop signs. I even got stuck with rituals and little games. I took to sneaking duty-free perfume on my wrists in spite of shop attendants and started going for the same overpriced Tea Latte in the Brussels Airport. I even tried to identify the flight home just by looking at people in the line, headphones still on for no linguistic aid. It usually works – there’s something about Romanians queuing in airports that never fails to remind me of documentaries on the feeding habits of hyenas.
And now I’m somewhere in between. I’ve kept my operative efficiency and almost arrogantly casual attitude towards various airport procedures. I’m weeding down my routines, especially since that overpriced Tea Whatever is really overpriced and I’ve been flying more often. I no longer care if my seat is window or aisle, but I will stare out at clouds if they’re there and giggle nervously at every air “bump” in the road. And I just need one more new airport for the next level of the Foursquare “Jetsetter” badge. So if anyone feels like RyanAir-ing somewhere, gimme a call.