Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Flight to Catch

This was written between 4-5 in the afternoon of April 6, 2011, when the blogger was feeling kind of sentimental in the airport, a cross between George Clooney in Up in the Air and Tom Hanks in The Terminal, or maybe something completely different from the two.

Washington Dulles Intl. Airport Main terminal

Yet again, my neck muscles have teamed up with one of my shoulders to create this physical vexation laymen call a ‘stiff neck’. I woke up this morning to find my head unable to turn to the right in its usual rapid nonchalance. So far, the pain’s successfully caused a headache; before the paracetamol after lunch, the most comfortable position that I could provide my head was a droop, and even that got me all dizzy and unfocused. I think I dropped my padlock somewhere in the kitchen without me knowing it.

Now ask the question: What was I doing with a padlock in the kitchen at lunch time? Well, I was packing up. I was busying myself with luggage, with clothes and books and shoes. More succinctly, I was drawing up the scheme of things by which I shall transport myself to the next dimension. You see, as I write this, I’m currently not in my usual blogging spot, which is an enclave so secret you’ll never find it.

I’m here at one of the laptop stations of the NAIA terminal II domestic wing. I’ve been here for half an hour already and have another thirty minutes to spare before boarding commences, should the flight depart on time. Today, I’m going home to Iloilo.

Across me, this foreign fellow toils away with his laptop. Earlier, he asked me to help him with the airport Internet connection – which sucks, by the way – and all I could do was provide a futile attempt at getting him wired before telling him that I’ve made just as much progress as he’s had with the net. I’m assuming he’s from China, or that he’s Chinese, since his laptop’s awash in Chinese characters. Cheer up, man (in reference to his currently contorted eyebrows).

(My mother calls. I talk to her in Hokkien.)

Well what do you know? Chinese guy’s not only versed in Hokkien, he’s also from the same place in Fujian province as my great-grandparents. I can feel his spirit lightened and brightened up by the fact that, of all places, the airport’s not one where he’s isolated by the language barrier. He’s chatty now. Good for him. He has this weird accent that 'non-Philippine' Hokkien speakers have. It’s like he’s twirling his tongue or something, which makes it challenging for me to understand what he's talking about. I hope you have a great time here. He’s saying lots of things now, some of which I don’t understand but just nod to.

Beside me is an American, I presume. For a more careful categorization, he’s one from an English-speaking country. And he has a Chinese-looking guy for company as well (but apparently, they know each other already). Oh, shoot – no, I’m not sure what his native tongue is anymore, based on what he just said (which I failed to process).

Now this is the part where I begin to really ramble on and on without direction.

I love airports. I love airplanes. I love the smell of airport terminals. I love the sight of shiny tiled floors and white walls, wide glass windows and streaming sunlight, artificial greenery and rows of benches, food stalls selling overpriced stuff. I love the cavernous feel of terminals, people scurrying from one end of the building to the other, either with children and/or tons of luggage in tow. I love the sight of people sitting solitary on the benches, side by side with their bags, looking beyond a certain nothing in the distance. I love the planes that create a performance in motion of metal bodies lifting to the air or rolling through the asphalt runway. I can smell anticipation in the air: of a child wanting to reach the beach in another island group, of a mother eagerly awaiting that moment when she’d hug her kid at the arrivals area of some other airport.

Few places can ever make me feel at home, and the airport's one of them. Maybe because I basically grew up with the airport only five minutes from home, the planes seemingly within arm's reach as they fly past our house every single day. Our flight's being called for boarding now, so I'll talk about this side of my life some other time. Meanwhile, let me insert what's become one of my favorite quotes from a movie, spoken by Hugh Grant's character in 2003's Love Actually.

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around."

Shanghai Pudong Intl. Airport Terminal 2

I know it's about the love part, but I just can't help loving the airport part. Now I've got a flight to catch and a plane to board. And a stiff neck to attend to.  

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