Internet InfoMedia when travel plans go awry
Internet InfoMedia 11Newsletter 00themorning nl facebookJumbo

There are ways of keeping ourselves anchored, even when we enter a parallel universe disconnected from time.

The weekend trip is, in theory, the perfect break. Two nights someplace else, just a small duffel bag and limited logistics standing between you and a reset. Leave on Friday, come back Sunday, fill the hours in between with enough that’s novel and return refreshed, or at least with a slightly altered perspective. You might take a weekend trip for vacation or work or to see family, but the effect is the same. You’re a little changed on return. You see your regular life a little bit differently.

I took what was meant to be a quick trip last weekend to attend a college graduation, and it was, strictly speaking, quick: I was scarcely away for 48 hours, but extreme weather marooned me for most of those hours in the liminal spaces of transit — airports, grounded planes, traffic jams — where time loses legibility. An old friend used to call these neither-here-nor-there realms the “zero world” for the way they feel unfastened from reality, parallel to daily life but separate. The flight cabin after an announcement of a fourth lightning delay is a world detached from the one you know, a temporary society populated by temporary citizens with perhaps not much in common save one deeply held belief: We need to get out of here.

I was as cranky and impatient as the rest of my fellow travelers at each complication in our journeys, but also fascinated by the communities and customs and Cibo Express markets of the zero world. Each of us was, at any given time, one captain’s announcement away from a temper tantrum, but we were also competitively careful to be polite to one another and to the airline staff, as if determined to demonstrate that those wild videos of short-tempered passengers being duct-taped to their seats did not represent us, the makeshift civilization of this departure lounge.

Graduation, when I finally arrived, was a joyous affair despite the glitches. The speaker, an astronaut, showed a photo of the farm where she grew up, the place she thought of as home for much of her life. Then she showed a photo of the limb of the Earth, the glowing edge of the atmosphere, and described how, when she went to space, home was no longer a town on a map but this planet, a shift in perspective so massive I felt a little queasy contemplating it.

On Hour 3 in the airport bar on Sunday morning, beside two German travelers practicing Spanish, I ordered an omelet and imagined my own home, which felt very far away and lit by its own otherworldly halo. What would I be doing if I were there? Reading, texting, catching up on emails — the same things I was doing here. What was so bad about this? Was it the lack of choice? The lack of fresh air?

It was all those things, and also the feeling of being trapped in a warp between origin and destination. My emotions felt out of proportion to the situation: I hadn’t traveled very far for very long, was in no peril and would still arrive in New York with enough day left to do whatever needed to be done, but I felt on the verge of tears, loosed from my moorings, floating between fixed points, dislocated. I put on my headphones, put on a favorite band whose songs are so familiar they provide a home base no matter where I am. I listened to the same album on repeat for the duration of the flight, in the car on the way home, even at home once I finally made it there.

We are having trouble retrieving the article content.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Want all of The Times? Subscribe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optimized by Optimole