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The International Traveler in the Domestic Terminal

international travelerWhen you are the international traveler in the domestic terminal, you look and smell really bad. Do everyone a favor and just keep your shoes on, and don’t raise your arms too high either. Lotion or perfume might help mask it, but remember, it is a thin veneer. Everyone else has just come from home or one other connection. You left home twenty-nine hours ago and have already endured three, four, or five airports.

Your kids are screaming or quietly sobbing or simply babbling nonsense. They are laying on the floor, sleeping and drooling. Or they cheer when you walk by a McDonalds. You are not concerned about the dirty floor, it isn’t as dirty as the last airport floor on which they spread out.

You brush your teeth and do your makeup, even change clothes in the bathroom. You walk like you’re drunk — swerving as the onslaught of lights beckon and disorient you, as utter exhaustion and instant sensory overload makes your knees buckle. You start to cry when it is time to board and they change your gate. It is just the next gate but at this point, even that is asking a little too much.

You keep saying biyo or de l’eau when you want water and you drink it without ice cubes.

You are dizzy from the overstimulation of understanding the news, the airport announcements, and all the conversations going on around you. You can’t understand, however, when the flight attendants directly address you in English.

Your kids don’t know what they are supposed to do with that plastic sheet on the toilet seat in the bathroom. Your youngest stops at every single drinking fountain and uses both the short one and the tall one. She isn’t used to drinking fountains so mostly she just sticks her tongue into the stream until your older kids beg you to move on.

You try to pay for a piece of Caribou lemon poppyseed bread to share with the whole family and can’t find any American coins.

Your eyes are red and puffy and you are just flying from Chicago to Minneapolis, pull it together.

Someone talks about flying from California and mentions the time change and you laugh. If only. The laugh sounds like a croak because you are dehydrated. You also have crusty boogers and gas.

It feels good to be around people who wear blue jeans and tennis shoes. Almost as quickly, it feels uncomfortable to be so conforming. No one is paying attention to you except when you start to cry and your kids drool into the carpet. No one is asking if you need help or if you know where you are going, no one suspects you of being a bit off your rocker for sitting in this part of the terminal. For once, other than the stink, you blend in. It feels both good and bizarre.

Now it is time to board, one more leg until you can leave airports behind. You will be the only ones clapping upon landing. Who claps for a pilot landing a flight after 45 minutes? Everyone claps after 17 hours. Then again, maybe you won’t clap, you already sense your otherness and start to smother parts of it.

Have a good flight and welcome home(?).

Image courtesy of Flickr

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