This Spring is going to be a travel nightmare.
Traveling is a real big mixed bag of feelings for me. I hate it, because it’s for work. I love it, because it’s some sponsored time to get away. But I hate it, because it’s taking me away from home, and making me miss concerts and get-togethers and Pokemon league.
An airplane is an unexpected place to find peace and quiet. As a writer, I’ve found it’s a great place to work, if not my favorite one–as long as you can be blunt with that chatty, oblivious woman who sits down next to you and say, sorry, but I can’t talk. I’ve got work to do. (If you’re the non-confrontational type, headphones function really well for this. Just slip them in while someone is talking to you and the message is conveyed without room for misinterpretation.)
There are no text messages with your friend going through a breakup to distract you, and no internet unless you’re willing to fork over for it; if your goal is to get some things done, save your five bucks.
I love traveling because it takes me out of my normal, my regular. The change of scenery, the lack of the usual distractions of home (oh, there are dishes in the sink? I should clean them before I sit down to write) make taxis, hotel rooms, and hotel restaurants an ideal place to get something done and to catch up on word counts. There’s something about staring blankly at a new, unfamiliar wall while revising that makes my clunky brain restart.
Let me tell you a funny story. I was on a plane once heading into DIA, which, of all the airports in the country, has the worst and most consistent turbulence. And for someone who flies a lot, I do not handle turbulence well. (You know that Star Wars ride at Disneyland where you’re in a little shuttle shaking back and forth? That ride made me puke. I went on the roller coaster in California Adventure that goes 100 MPH and turns you upside down and it was the stupid shaking shuttle that made me lose my chunks.)
Anyway, there was this guy sitting next to me on the plane who hadn’t said a word since we sat down–which, I am obviously fine with. He had already witnessed me reaching the end of a great book in the middle of the flight and crying like a really sleep-deprived toddler. But as the plane starts descending, and it’s shaking like that stupid Star Wars ride, I’m working really, really hard to keep myself from letting out a technicolor yawn.
Guy notices me struggling–breathing deeply, clutching the arm rest like I might get blown away otherwise–and, though it obviously pains the introvert in him, he starts talking to me. “Looks like you liked your book,” he says.
“It was pretty sad at the end,” I say.
“I saw you writing earlier. Are you a writer?”
“I guess you could say that. I do write words that sometimes become books.” The whole struggling-not-to-puke thing makes me unintentionally sassy. He likes it.
“Planes are great for that. So are hotel rooms.”
I glance at him sideways. He hasn’t said the inevitable, oh, how interesting, I’m a writer too, and for that, I give him some credit.
“Yeah. They are. Do you travel a lot, too?”
“Yep.” I want to ask what he does, but I’m focused on the vomit that’s trying to get up my esophagus like a viking army beating a castle door with a battering ram. “I’m in sales. Semi-conductors.”
“Semi-conductors,” I repeat. “But you write?”
He’s looking at me warily, but I can’t tell if it’s because he doesn’t want to talk about it, or because he’s worried that I’m about to puke all over him.
“Yeah. I do. I have a lot of time in hotel rooms after schmoozing with clients to just do nothing, so I started writing. You know what it’s like–the weird paintings on the walls, and those stiff blankets that don’t really keep you warm, and desk lamps that are too dim to really be useful? Perfect for writing, and not really for anything else.”
It’s weird how right he is. “What kind of stuff do you write?” I’m really articulate right now.
He shuffles in his seat. He’s a pretty handsome guy, looks kind of like Giovanni Ribisi, but is so shy and squirrely you’d never notice at first.
“Just life, I guess. Charles Bukowski-type stuff.”
“What have you written?”
“A couple books.”
“Have you ever… submitted them? Tried to get them published?”
He furiously shakes his head. “No. Nope. No. Never.”
I want to ask why, but we’re almost on the ground, and I managed to keep my stomach acid where it belongs.
“Feeling better?” the guy asks.
“Yes. Definitely.” Before I can say thanks, he gets up and starts de-boarding. I really wanted to hand him my business card and find out what a semi-conductor salesman who styles himself after Charles Bukowski is writing about.
Which is the last thing I love about traveling: a shy stranger trying to distract me from the overwhelming need to puke. I once made friends during a snowstorm in Denver, when we were all trapped in the same hotel; I met an older woman who was also obsessed with Hello Kitty; and I even met a good friend who still comes over to play Mario Kart.
But it sure would be nice to have all that and never leave home.