Familiar Amusements in Unfamiliar Airports

I write this in an airport.

Now, airports do not inherently make me nervous.  I am a pilot’s daughter, after all.  Ever since I can remember, we’ve flown standby.  I flew alone for the first time when I was 12.  Getting a boarding pass, going through security, navigating unfamiliar airports, etc. are not difficult tasks for me.

Having to let someone else make all my travel plans is another matter.

The organization through which I am participating in the Exciting Thing sent me the flight info only two weeks ago, and made sure to give me “as much time as possible” to make my connecting flight in DC – which apparently means I needed four hours to kill in between my flights.

Being a good little child of the internet, I found a quiet, empty gate in which to putter away on my laptop, having wasted spent many happy hours at home on Pinterest, Facebook, and the like.  I can amuse myself for four hours, no problem.

Except I quickly realized that there is a vast difference between aimlessly scrolling through Pinterest board after Pinterest board on my own couch where I can burst out laughing or sobbing without fear of judgment, and checking the same time-wasting websites awkwardly taking up three airport chairs while strangers walk past.  I was surprised by the discomfort produced by trying to replicate my private amusements in an unavoidably public setting.  Where normally it’s all too easy to slip into the hypnotizing whirlpool of Online World for an afternoon, I found myself looking up every time someone walked within five feet of me, jolted out of my own train of thought and awkwardly aware that other human beings surrounded me.  The interesting thing is that I’m not entirely sure if this uncomfortable feeling originates from a sense of obligation to interact with these other people (even though many of them don’t care to begin a conversation and would probably look at me strangely if I tried), a mild self-absorption (then again, who doesn’t wonder if strangers are noticing them while out in public?), or simply the disconnect between a normally homebound activity and my new, busy setting.

But I guess my predicament really says more about my ability to communicate/interact/be around other people in general.  Spending as much time as I do either somewhere with a specific purpose (e.g., class) or on my way to a specific purpose (e.g., walking to class), I don’t really spend a lot of down time just existing in the world at large.  My time without an assignment tends to be spent in solitude, which explains why I’m blogging to no one instead of striking up a conversation with the other people who have slowly joined me in the formerly empty gate.  But as we all sit here with at least three seats between us and anyone else, I can’t help thinking it’s not entirely my fault.  We are all wrapped up in amusing ourselves, not taking advantage of whatever we might have in common, just smiling awkwardly whenever we accidently make eye contact.

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