Airports are rampant with a sense of urgency. Rushing between terminals. Speed-stripping at security. Hurrying through Starbucks lines.
So it makes sense, then, that the only real time to breathe is on the airplane itself. After the take-off, of course, when the oh-my-god-how-is-this-going-to-fly panic is overridden. We sit with our belts fastened, our seat backs in the upright position, our tray tables folded — and in this wifi-less atmosphere, we are finally allowed a moment of distraction-free thinking. For the duration of the flight, we have nothing to do, which gives us endless freedom.
On Sunday as I flew back from my Thanksgiving-weekend trip, I occupied myself with Beyoncé streaming through my right earbud, a book in my lap and a magazine underneath. The girl next to me, indecisive between sleeping or reading, flashed her seat light on and off, occasionally leaving me in the dark and feeling like turning my own light on would be unfair to her. I looked at my parents, already asleep (before the plane left the runway), my dad undoubtedly hoping his heavy congestion wouldn’t lead to in-flight snoring. I was slightly annoyed by the people speaking loudly in German behind me.
But then I stopped, listened to the loud purr of the engine, and brushed away my irritation. I realized that all of us on that plane were in some sort of harmony with each other. Whether we acknowledged it or not, we were all packed together in this time capsule of a vehicle, pummeling us 30,000 feet into the air — and for that hour and 38 minutes, we were all alone with our thoughts.
We use the time to breathe on a plane as a getaway from our daily obligations and find time to compensate for everything we’ve missed. The books we never got to reading, the sleep our alarms prohibited, the conversations we failed to speak.
So the next time I’m on a plane, forgive me for flashing my seat light, or snoring or speaking too loudly — I’m just making up for everything missed.