The Hangnail Gift for Lent
I’ve spent the last 24 hours in airports; I am still a minimum of 8 hours away from home. There’s a huge part of me that feels shame for writing this. After all, what ever “suffering” I’ve endured over the last day is a hangnail in the grand scope of human agony.
I am writing it, however, so that I can put feeling into symbol and remember.
But, first, a bit on the hangnail.
Greenville NC → Charlotte NC
I am on my way home to Calgary (that’s in Canada) from a conference held in Greenville, NC. My journey began with a cornered conversation about biological determinism and the Republican position on late-term abortions. It was painful. It was guilt-ridden, as I didn’t want to have the conversation but felt responsible to have it, in large part as payment for the immense amount of privilege that, as an educated white girl, I currently hold.
Charlotten NC → Phoenix AZ
In Charlotte, I attempted to board the wrong plane: got as far as the gate scan. The correct plane was delayed due to a medical emergency on the previous flight (but the same plane). When we finally boarded, there was still a chance that I’d make my Calgary flight, until we sat at the gate, in the dark, for the subsequent 45 minutes. At that point I realized there was no way in hell I’d make my final flight home and I began tweeting at both Westjet and American Air. Westjet was optimistic (and quick to answer). American much less so. After a five hour flight and a can of juice poured on my shoulder by the flight attendant, we reached Phoenix and the long line at the American Air customer service.
I left the care of the lovely American Air customer service agent (I won’t hear a bad word about her) with a seat on a flight to Dallas at 5:50 the following morning, a food voucher for $12, two coupons for taxis, and a booking for a “hotel”. I found a lovely cab driver named Sam. I was unhappy, but optimistic.
The highlights of my twenty minute drive on the Phoenix interstate were the micro cacti thrills, and a brief contemplation on the posibility that Sam was actually driving me out into the dessert to kill me (way too many CSI episodes in my youth).
Then, the “hotel.”
If American Air offers you a free stay at the Windermere Mesa in Phoenix AZ, say “NO.” It was a Tarantino movie. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being left, alone, in seedy hotels as a child. This place was worse.
Sam was kind enough to pick me up again and drive me back to the airport.
The Phoenix Airport is not designed for sleeping. Every single chair past security has arm rests. They are low and don’t lift up (sleep spot effort #1 — FAIL). Those screens that stand behind the ticket agent booths at the gates? In Phoenix they are attached to a closet (sleep spot effort #2 — FAIL). The floor would be a good option; however, all the lights are on full blast, as is CNN (sleep spot effort #3 — FAIL). On the North side of security — sleep spot WIN!
Phoenix AZ → Dallas, TX
In Dallas, the real heartbreak hits. No wifi or cell signal, means no updated time zone, which means a missed flight home.
This is exhaustion, topped with a joyless dose of mommy fail. I am pretty confident I‘ve never cried so hard in public before, and I hope to never again. I cried so hard I gagged. I cried so hard, old ladies came up to me in the bathroom afterwords, to find out what American Air had done to me.
This is nothing. Life can be so very much worse.
Next flight home is at 6:05 pm, with a touch down time 34 hours after the start of this adventure. I make a fort in a cornered patch of sun, and hide until all the people who witnessed my meltdown have borded their flights. I find some clean underwear and a toothbrush in my carry-on, and yell at my brain to stop teleporting me into the parallel universe where I am eating shitty plane pretzels, halfway home.
Dallas, TX → Home?
When I realize that the last 30 hours are a form of forced Lent, that they are a chance to sit in the grief and the missing and the longing and the pathetic misery of sore feet, dirty hair, and disappointed kid, my world shifts.
I miss home, because home matters.
I grieve time lost, because I want to be crawled on by all the bodies that love me.
I am miserable, because my life home is so unbelievably fucking good.
Thank you to this journey, and the arm-length insight of my friends. Here’s hoping for a successful flight home.
I teach, design, and research as a feminist scholar, usually located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. You can see some of my work, or find out more about me, at http://milenaradzikowska.com. I am on twitter as @candesignlove.
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