These days, I’m traveling a lot less than I was at my peak, which, now that I think about it, probably lasted a couple of years. With best friends and family peppered all over creation, it wasn’t uncommon for me to fly somewhere three or four times a month during those years. Remind me again why this country is so big?
[What is Manifest Destiny, Alex?]
Thanks to my year-long long-distance relationship (which, I am happy to report, has been long-distance free since a final one-way trip from D.C. to Madison, WI last October), I even attained Elite status on AirTran, meaning I took a staggering 25+ flights within a 365-day period. And that’s just on one airline.
All this is to say, when I complain about traveling—specifically flying—I’m doing so as an informed participant. I love to see new places, experience new things, eat new foods, and visit old friends. I do not, however, love airports. There’s something about the Atlanta airport in particular that evokes images of refugee camps. It makes me want to crawl into a corner with my Popeye’s takeout (available across from gate C18) and cry.
The good news is that my entire travel experience has been upgraded recently, and not only by the complimentary checked baggage, priority boarding, and space-available business class upgrades that come with my Elite status. I got a KINDLE! Last Sunday, as I made my way from Tampa back to Madison, the miserable throngs in Atlanta didn’t even faze me. I located my gate, settled into a rare open seat, and continued to devour The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. I recently downloaded this excellent novel simply because it only cost $5 for Kindle. What can I say? I’m a sucker. Here’s the link:
It qualifies as a novel, but it’s structured as a collection of short stories, each about a different character who’s connected in some way to a floundering English-language newspaper in Rome. I’ll warn you that a major theme of the novel is loneliness and isolation, but the characters in all their failure to connect are deeply relatable at their best and still sympathetic at their worst. I loved this book from the beginning, but I was really sold when I read the following passage, obviously extracted from my very own brain by some scary voo doo on Rachman’s part:
“Once at the boarding gate, Abbey [by which he obviously means MB] falls into her customary travel coma, a torpor that infuses her brain like pickling fluid during long trips. In this state, she nibbles any snack in reach, grows mesmerized by strangers’ footwear, turns philosophical, ends up weepy.”
Or she did, anyway. Until she got a Kindle.