Wherever You Go, There’s a Screen

“How was your trip?”

What was the highlight of your trip?”

“What were the top three things about your trip?”

These are questions I always get when I get home from a big one.  The first one is so broad that all I just say, “It was great.” If the asker is genuinely interested in knowing more, he or she will ask more questions.

The other two are meant, I think, to keep the returned traveler hemmed in so he/she doesn’t go on and on.  I don’t blame the asker; not everyone has time or interest in hearing details about someone else’s trip, but when you see someone at work who’s been gone for a month you have to ask them something, if for no other reason than to be courteous.  Personally, I love hearing about other people’s trips, as long as they’re not cornering me on the way to a meeting or shoving their cell phone in my face to show me videos of their roller coaster ride at Disney World.

When people ask for the “top three” they are probably expecting me to say:

  • The Coliseum
  • The Amalfi Coast
  • The Alhambra

Or some such check list of tangible things.  But the highlight of this trip was that I was in the moment.  I wasn’t planning ahead or analyzing what I should have done differently.  I didn’t have To-Do lists, coupons or business cards or post-it notes with reminders to myself stuffed into every pocket.  There are no piles of things by the door ready to return to a store, or library books to return, or bags of plastic bags to take to the recycling center.  I pretty much wore the same two outfits for three weeks so I didn’t have to decide what to wear.  There were no cleaning or DIY projects, unless you count hand washing my socks and underwear—a meditative activity in itself.  I only woke up once with an alarm clock

I hadn’t set out to be mindful, and now I wonder if this is one of the things I’ve loved about travel all along but was never aware of.

I was traveling alone for the first 10 days so I had to really pay attention to, for example, what time the train left.  I had to be aware of my surroundings for safety’s sake.  I needed to remember to ask the hotel front desk to print my boarding pass when I had a flight the next day.  So there were things I had to attend to, but this reinforced being in the moment, I was nothing like the Human Doing I am at home.

Being in the moment doesn’t mean you’re never irritated.

Am I the only one who doesn’t love the screens embedded in airplane seat backs?  They’re great for watching movies.  But they are set to be on, all the time, unless you turn them off.

On night flights, my routine is to gulp down a glass of wine, choke down the “food” Delta calls dinner, then don my ear plugs and sleep mask and try to get a few hours of sleep so that when I arrive I can tell myself I had a good night’s sleep—when I really only had four fitful hours.  (I also bring a full-size down pillow on night flights.  It makes a huge difference; you can use it to pad the wall or the arm rest, or smoosh it up and hunch forward over it.  It’s not counted as a carry on item.)

I woke up at some point during the flight and staggered down the aisle to the toilet.  Delta requires people to lower their window shades and turns off the cabin lights.  But 90% of the screens were on—hundreds of “Delta” logos glowing white and red.  People were sound asleep with these screens a foot from their faces.

Back in my seat, I looked at the guy across the aisle and one row in front of me.  His screen was on, his wife was asleep but her screen was on, and he was playing solitaire on his phone.  And we wonder why it’s so hard to sleep on planes.

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