I love Duke, but sometimes I just need to get the hell out. Lucky for me, I’m part of a nifty school funded program called Duke Immerse where I get to take a two-week trip abroad. So, seven days ago, I and 11 other cranky, sleep deprived and possibly hung over Duke students boarded a shuttle at 3:00 a.m. to make our flight out of Raleigh. And now, I’m writing from South Africa ya’ll! But with three separate flights, 22 hours of flying and 29 hours of total travel time, I feel like I’ve spent way too much time either flying or at an airport.
For the most part, airports are miserable places that suck the soul out of all who pass through. I thought I’d be used to it by now with all my trips to and from home during breaks, but it’s really not something you ever get fully accustomed to. I have, however, come to appreciate the beauty of being up in the air with absolutely no control over whether I live or perish. It’s during these flights I’m able to reflect on my life choices, think existential thoughts and catch up on all the homework I haven’t done yet. And after thinking all these thoughts, I’ve come to the conclusion that the experience of flying is a microcosm for society and important life lessons.
So here’s some tidbits of life wisdom I’ve taken away from flying that I hope are valid enough to warrant my passing them along to you.
People are a--holes.
There’s something about airports and flying that brings out the worst in people. Perhaps it’s the never-ending lines, bright fluorescent lights or overpriced Starbucks, but for whatever reason I’ve met my fair share of horrible human beings while flying. These are the sort of people who think they’re above listening to TSA, take up all the overhead space (you get TWO carry-ons), scream at flight attendants or basically do anything that makes life more difficult for everyone around. No one enjoys flying; it’s a hassle, it’s tedious, and the confined space means there’s a high likelihood of being infected by an airborne disease. But if it’s miserable for you, then it’s probably that way for everyone else, too. So why make the situation even more difficult? It doesn’t matter how unhappy you are, treating people poorly is never going to make anything better.
Don’t hate the player; hate the game.
I find that inner rage and anger is often misdirected while the real issue is ignored. The clearest example is going through airport security, which begins with the torturous process of waiting in a shockingly long line and then being required to remove as many articles of clothing as you can without actually being naked. And God forbid you manage to set off the metal detector or body scanner (which for some reason I always do). In that case, you also get the privilege of being frisked by some random TSA person in creepy latex gloves—not exactly the way one imagines getting to second base. But as much as you want to throw out expletives or poke out their eyeballs, the bottom line is they’re really just doing their job. It’s not their fault, and yet they put up with a lot of crap by the sheer nature of their job. Be careful of deflecting blame onto those who don’t deserve it.
We’re all in this together.
Every plane has a quintessential crying baby on board that its respective parents have lost all power over. This is a universal experience that I am convinced builds community amongst us passengers as we give each other knowing glances that our lives are being ruined. After all, there’s always a certain level of comfort that comes with knowing that we’re all riding the struggle bus to some extent. And look, I get it: Babies are tiny bundles of destruction and broken dreams. That shit is hard to manage. But if your child is shrieking hysterically for almost two hours, then you are no longer free of blame and better get that baby under control or on a sedative.
It always gets better.
It’s kind of cheesy, but one of my favorite parts of flying is at the very end when I finally escape and make my way toward baggage claim, and I see the hoards of families and friends waiting for their loved ones, some holding signs and others simply bearing smiles, as they wait in anticipation for the person they care about to appear. It serves as a small reminder that we all have someone who loves us, who will wait for us as we weather the storm. And as horrible as things may seem, whether on a plane or on the ground, eventually things will get better and we will go on.
So there you have it: a collection of my musings and mildly significant thoughts. Flying still sucks, but at least I’ve been able to take away from the experience. And I hope that next time, you do too.
Michelle Menchaca is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs every other Thursday.