I had really no idea how enlightening the trip to Phoenix would be until I returned back home. While I like to think my observations are pretty spot-on, first impressions can be deceiving.
Compared to the larger locations and airports, Jacksonville does seem quite small at times. I was happy to see that my gate was in a similar area as my last outgoing flight. The airport was buzzing with chatter, boarding calls, and automated announcements. In the plethora of noise, I found these two older women speaking to each other. I would assume there had been friends for many years. They spoke in a common area of conversation: how the culture is changing around them. They spoke about children and grandchildren that were breaking the unwritten moral code of the past. They voiced their concerns about personal relationships gone bad and how the tattoo would be the downfall of Western civilization. Little did I know that these topics would be the frame of my personal observations on this trip.
As we boarded the plane, I was eager to get started. Getting away from the standard chores and responsibilities for a week was just the tonic I needed. I arrived at my seat to find out that someone had already taken it. I was going to say something, but this was a gentleman wearing a sling and a discontent expression. The flight from JAX to ATL is less than an hour and I had a feeling that making a scene was not the correct way to start my vacation. I would later learn that this man was making his way back home to Puerto Rico. He was more than happy to discuss all the good that the current Administration has been doing to help rebuild after that horrible hurricane. He compared the difference in mainstream United States media to other global sources. He would even take it so far to say that the Liberals (i.e. Democrats) were in effect distorting the news for political points. I found the discussion fascinating as such dedication for our current government is hard to find outside of the more conservative counties. I grew up in an extremely conservative county, but have not carried all the political beliefs with me with full commitment. I have strong concerns with politics in general and don’t get too deep into where I stand when speaking with strangers.
Lucky for me, there was plenty of distractions on-board. I was flying in a Boing 757 with all the latest technology. Unlike my last trip where all the planes were simple and small, the aircraft I flew for most of this trip were very modern and smooth. I was greeted by a screen that not only displayed the safety video, but movies, games and Wi-Fi. They even had live television so you never miss a beat. Forgot your ear-buds? No problem, the airline will be happy to sell you a pair at the beginning of the flight. The airline has to offset the cost of those fancy screens, right? It is a beautiful example of capitalism. I actually prefer to miss several beats while in the air. I enjoy the feeling of being removed from the world, if only slightly. I will admit that I indulged in the Flight Tracker. This shows a live map with your location and the general flight route. A separate screen shows information such as altitude, ground speed, and outside temperature. I watched the numbers change up and down through the short flight to Atlanta.
I was concerned to find out that our arrival gate was on the complete opposite side of the terminal compared to my next flight. However, I had forgotten that ATL has the train system that travels between the terminals. A similar train system is present in many large airports, I have found. I quickly located the plane to heading to Phoenix. This time I made sure I was in the window seat so I could watch the ground pass by at a rapid speed during take-off. I love the feeling of speeding down the runway and then lifting off the ground with ease. The larger aircraft accomplish this task so easily, which is a testament to excellent engineering and basic physics.
Speaking of engineering, I was reminded of a less-than-intelligent design of having the First-Class seats positioned where the “commoners” have to slide their way through to the back. This has never made sense to me except that the people in those seats feel better about themselves and get extra attention on the fight. The best way would be to board the back of the plane first so those First Class people didn’t have to wait. What do you think?
When I arrived in Phoenix, I was confused to find that the path to the bag collection area included the exit doors. Normally, the doors are nearby, but why would I want to arrive at the doors before seeing the collection area? So, the Phoenix airport gets a less than perfect score on design.
One common theme for this trip is meeting people from my workplace that I had only spoken with via instant message. As I was feeling adventurous, I had one of these work friends pick me up from the airport and show me the best place to have lunch. We found an excellent burger place in Tempe Marketplace called SmashBurger. I was starving because I had eaten breakfast at 6:00AM and my body was thinking it was 3:30PM. The time zone did not trick my stomach. We had a good lunch and updated each other on our lives like old friends. I had helped her (if only through virtual conversation) through a recent struggle and she seemed more stable. This is the first example (in a while) of me really trusting my gut when others lost faith. Much like myself, she does not get out of the house much, so we bonded over this and our love of writing. Of all the people that I mentioned my writing to, she has been the only co-worker that specifically mentioned it to me when meeting in-person. Later in the week, I would show her my poetry book and describe to her my feelings around the poetry. It is rewarding to share a part of yourself with a similar mind. There was a trust that I had not experienced in a long time and I really enjoyed my time visiting with her. Maybe I was wrong in thinking that adults will find it hard to make new friends.
I came to this realization as I typed the words.
I am glad that I started with this particular person for my series of outings. It was calm and conversational. I arrived at my AirBnb location and settled into my room after a full day of travel and talking. The other renter there invited me to watch a movie with her after I finished dinner. I was pleased to hear this as I was concerned that the rest of the night would be very long until bed. We watched A River Runs Through It from my digital collection. She was from England and had never seen this very American movie. It was the perfect first day of my vacation.
As with any good story, there has to be conflict of some sort. As you will see, it will be mostly internal as my core beliefs are tested and social awkwardness rears its head more than once.