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Frequent Frequent Flyer Naomi Shihab Nye
I realized that I travel too much on the day I began tidying an airport as if it were my bedroom. Unconsciously I picked up subscription cards that had slipped from magazines, loose newspaper sections, empty soda cups, and pitched them into the trash. Hey, it was my gate. I wanted it to look nice. The prim decisiveness of airports feels deeply pleasing and restful. The anonymity, a gust of fresh air. Neat signage, changing gate information, moving sidewalks, minimalist trains “arriving in 2 minutes” -- delicious. Why do so many people complain about airports? How hard is it to show one’s ID? A few weeks ago, I was at La Guardia long enough to start a small business. I know Houston’s Hobby and Washington’s Reagan as well as the blocks around our house. I love Chicago’s neon tunnel and the Tom’s Toothpaste display in Portland, Maine. Portland’s airport, however, does not sell Tom’s Toothpaste. In San Antonio we display Mexican tile sinks. You could rally some Tom’s Toothpaste and brush your teeth over them. I like putting things together, imagining lives. Where are all these people going? So many children traveling alone…. I know which stalls nationwide serve the best sesame bagel, the tastiest swirled vanilla and chocolate frozen yogurt. The Cincinnati chili stand has added vegetarian chili to its spaghetti/chili/cheese list. I am such a frequent flyer, I could become a flight attendant tomorrow with no training. Perhaps this is insulting to the profession, surely attendants do many crucial things we never see, but I find myself mouthing their safety instructions perfectly and sometimes, after serving drinks at my own home, I walk around with a trash bag and grim smile. It is true that on all sides at every gate, frantic women and men are punching numbers into little phones. Soon they will be condemned to live two whole hours without calling anyone… this is hard for them. It makes no difference whether I am headed to Seattle, Winnipeg, Toronto, Boise -- airport is the hopeful second home place, the delicious enroute, the hour you could be anyone who ever passed through.