Air Travel, Disorientation, and the Warp of Possibilities

Guanzhou

You are Barb-the-Tourist-in-Thailand.

Switch.

You are Barb-the-Resident-in-Oregon.

No, not so quick! You cannot switch from one Barb to the other, not in a matter of days. And yet you do.

You wake up at some point and check your clock. You are all by yourself in an Airbnb. You check your phone for messages, brief, from your husband far away in time zones and miles. You text and video conference at length with the daughter you are visiting, who is nearby.  You yield to a schedule half-shaped by yourself and half by your daughter. She is working weekdays but plans your breakfasts, dinners, and weekends. You know that today you will be warm, you will bow to elderly women, you will remove your shoes if others are doing so, and you will walk long distances. You will not know what you are eating. You will not always know what will happen next.  The days unfold with a pleasing amount of similarity and a pleasing amount of variation.

Switch.

You take the stairs to your office after locking your bike. You work in front of your two monitors at your desk. You go to aqua-aerobics class mid-day. You control how much time you will be distractible by adjusting whether the office door is open, and by choosing when to venture into the hall to fetch coffee. At your home, you choose the pieces of your routine that you will engage in today which may include food preparation, housework, planning, visiting your father, and catching up with other family near and far including your son and husband, very near. Your daughter is far away in time zones and miles, and you check in on her with one-sentence messages. The days unfold with a pleasing amount of similarity and a pleasing amount of variation.

But how did you transform from Barb-the-Tourist-in-Thailand to Barb-the-Resident-in-Oregon?

Switch.

The switch is uncanny, unknowable. The air travel takes too long to be comfortable. But the air travel is too rapid to be comfortable.

As Barb-the-Tourist-in-Thailand you find yourself in transit to a terminal, and there are many steps of that transit. You find yourself poured, like water in an ice cube tray, into your compartment on the plane where largely you sit and allow the transit to occur.  You may change planes and move to a different ice cube tray.

You may look down onto Earth landscapes that make you lose confidence that you are not a stranger everywhere. You fly over parts of Thailand, Laos, and China. The ocean. California. What you thought you are returning to, Barb-the-Resident-in-Oregon, is an anomaly.  Most likely you cannot be her because the people and locations on Earth, as you are reminded, are too numerous and varied.  If you were Barb-the-Resident-in-Oregon with all of her personal richness, history, routines, and aspirations, then what about all those other people down there in all those other places below you, and represented by the people immobilized next to you and behind you, and padding in the plane aisles while all of you are in the air?

You are incapable of believing that such complexity of humanity exists.

Switch.

You are in your Oregon bed. You are both awake and very, very tired. You are Barb-the-Resident-in-Oregon. You wonder if you were ever that other person, or if you ever had the experiences of switching.

You are in a warp but you cannot say what type it is:  a time warp? a space warp? a warp of possibilities?

The discomforts of transit pass.  You think you are Barb-the-resident-in-Oregon, but a part of you knows you are an impostor because you cannot go back to that person. After the transit, that Barb no longer exists.  She can’t.

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