Paris Diaries:Know Thyself and Other Airport Diversions
Outside of Apollo's Temple at Delphi was printed "Know Thyself." Like all advice, it is deceptive in its simplicity. Most people think that they do know themselves, but few actually do or assess themselves in such a way to make their self knowledge actually useful.

This phrase should definitely be written outside of every airport and train station in the country. One of the keys to traveling well is to understand how you travel. I have control issues, mainly I don't like to be at the mercy of others-not just pilots or the asshats at amtrak, but even relying on friends on me to pick me up. This probably has a direct relationship to how many times my parents "accidentally" left me at art class for 3 hours or forgot to pick me at school. Thus travelling, particularly if I have to rely on another person for part or all of the trip is far more anxiety provoking than for some of my free spirited friends. To calm my inner control freak, I need to arrive at the airport early, check in, and settle in at the gate for what promises to be a fairly long spell. Still even if fully in control, of all the elements, I will get all riled up. So I plan for this eventuality with my choice of entertainment.

One way to entertain myself is through reading. Reading in an airport is not like reading curled up in one's favorite chair with a cup of tea. While I love debating the intricacies of Richard the Third or curling up with Baudrillard's theory about sign and simulacra, I also know that by hour four on a plane, the last thing I'm going to want to read is a literary analysis of Kafka or an Umberto Eco novel about an amnesiac bookseller. International flights require books like Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon or Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine. These books aren't simple, but they certainly don't demand the same level of attention or involvement as S/Z. Furthermore I try to pick books suitable for the trip-thus Paris warrants Hemingway's a Movable Feast or anything by Zola. Truthfully, however, I usually find myself so nervous before taking off I can't focus on a sentence long enough to actually process it.

And this is where liquor comes in.

While they may have banned smoking in airports, they have not, thankfully, banned drinking. The key is to get enough of a buzz on as to be calm on the plane, but not so much that airport security has to escort you from the building.

As I said, knowing yourself is the key to successful traveling. In this case, knowing how much to drink and how quickly. Fir me 3 hours warrants at least one vodka tonic. If the pour is particularly light, then maybe two. But one is the minimum dosage.

After checking in with my e-ticket, checking my bag (it's easier what with all the restrictions these days) and charging through security, I found myself one of those horribly dismal little airport bar/restaurants close to the gate. As if the bar couldn't be depressing enough due to the flourescent lighting and the stale anxious feeling all airports seem saturated with, because I was taking the red eye, the airport, as well as the bar, was particularly desolate...making it seem more like a set for the Langoliers or the Night Flier than the beginning of a transatlantic romantic folly.

At the bar, I can indulge in one of my all time favorite airport entertainments: match the traveler with the destination. Thus I find myself betting money, against myself, that the three girls who sit next to me, who are giggly, and wearing too much make-up and far too constricting clothes to be comfortable on a plane are going to Vegas. They order the types of drinks that make bartenders cringe-lots of shaking and mixing-with little paper umbrellas and pieces of fruit on the edge. An older couple orders wine spritzers, I'm putting money on Miami or maybe, if they are feeling particularly edgy one of the Florida Keys, while I'm impressed that the bartender even knows what a wine spritzer is.

There aren't enough people in the bar for me to play the match the passenger with the destination game for very long so I find myself playing my new favorite restaurant game: What would Gordon Ramsay say. Thus when presented with over salted, cold, rubbery crap-with fries so cold that I couldn't even choke one down, I imagine him storming into the bar, shirt sleeves rolled up, "You call this shit food, do you? Do you? You lazy fuckers. Why not just present the passengers with a giant salt lick and a bit of parsley on the side if you are going to serve them this shit? And these chips? Honestly WHO FUCKS UP CHIPS? What chef actually can't make a decent chip? It doesn't even look like FOOD. It's not an embarrassment, it's a crime against fucking humanity, for fuck's sake" And then he would run his fingers through his hair and say, "It's like talking to a fucking wall, you dumb bastards. I don't even know why I'm here." And then he would stalk away.

By this time, I had wasted enough time and brain cells to get onto the plane. The vodka tonic, a single one beccause the glasses were particularly large and the pour was pretty decent, had settled me, and it was time to commence on my latest misadventure.

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