Magazine article Compass: A Jesuit Journal

I Can't Seem to Live in an Airport

Magazine article Compass: A Jesuit Journal

I Can't Seem to Live in an Airport

Article excerpt

This past summer I spent a full day travelling from Jamaica to Omaha, Nebraska, where I took a two-month course in spirituality. The cramped and uncomfortable airplane trips were broken by stops at various airports, all depressingly identical: long, carpeted and cold corridors whence I would try to break away from the herd to find an outside door for a cigarette between flights. In Des Moines the hydraulics broke on the passageway they wheel against the plane door. After waiting, meekly imprisoned, until things were fixed, I made a dash for a cigarette to sustain me for the final leg of the journey. I only got a half-mile down the corridor before I heard peremptory calls on the p.a. that the flight was leaving. I turned back, defeated; Christian forbearance used up for the day, I snapped at the flight attendant, who looked genuinely surprised that a patron was not enjoying the American Airlines experience.

Finally I reached my residence in Omaha, a house that was freshly carpeted, climate-controlled, and nonsmoking. I $$ Illegible Word $$ thought airports were universally disliked. No, it turns out that they represent a preferred lifestyle. I went to my room where I smoked a cigarette as I unpacked and lit another one as I sat down to read the printed instructions for guests. "No smoking in bedrooms. Smoke outside only," they instructed. Apparently I had been away from middle-class North America for too long. Restricted and begrudged toleration had moved to zero-tolerance. I gave a panicked look at the air conditioning vent. Was it already blowing chilled second-hand smoke into someone else's room? I hastily closed the vents and opened the windows, which also allowed me to warm up.

An orientation meeting that evening produced more house guidelines. Don't close the vents on the air conditioners: bad things will happen to them. Don't open the windows: more bad things will happen. I went up to bed that evening, closed the windows, opened the vents and threw a blanket on the bed, praying that the air conditioners would survive the unexpected hardships they had been subjected to.

Other directions for living included intricate instructions about recycling involving various bins to receive various species of debris. I ventured the comment to a confidant that ecological consciousness, meritorious though it might be, might better be directed to turning off the air conditioning system, which must be soaking up megawatts of electricity, than to fussing around with a few aluminum cans. …

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