No, ma’am, that is not a weapon. That is my belly button.

Sometimes, when I see a plane overhead, or go with a friend to or from the airport, I’ll think to myself, “Look at all these lucky people flying to exciting places and doing exciting things.”  Air travel is glamorous, modern, dramatic.

Of course, once you’re actually taking the plane, the reality is a wee bit less exciting.

My recent travelling went quite well, as travels go.  My flights were on time and smooth.  The only child near me was cute and well-behaved.  I spent hours waiting at airports, but free wi-fi and a hard drive full of illegally-downloaded movies made the time go reasonably quickly.  I was able to get extra packets of salty snacks on one flight just by asking nicely.  Really, not bad at all.

But, also not glamorous.  Taking off my shoes, belt, and jacket and standing in a body-scan machine that lets a bored middle-aged woman see me naked?  Not glamorous.  Trying to find a comfortable way to rest my head against the curved airplane wall?  Not glamorous.  Sitting on the airport floor next to a custodial cart because the only wall-sockets aren’t anywhere near a chair?  Not glamorous.  Being groped by security personnel so they can be sure that my piercings aren’t concealed weapons?  Definitely not glamorous.

And, my experiences going through customs probably deserve a blog post of their own, except I’m not at all confident I could keep it from degenerating into a frothing rant.  I’m actually a pretty big advocate of a country’s sovereign right to police its borders as it sees fit, but I refuse to believe that it is either secure or effective to spend 90 minutes asking me three minutes of questions in ten-minute intervals, about topics that are clearly of no interest to anyone but provide a format for assessing my state of mind.  I am a competent adult with a university degree; I am clever enough to remember the answer I gave to the same question ten minutes earlier.

What’s your reason for entering the country?
Tourism and travel.
Okay, have a seat.

And, why are you visiting, again?
Tourism and travel.
All right.  Make yourself comfortable and we’ll call you again in a few minutes.

So, what did you say brings you here?
I’m hoping to sell the 20 kilos of Colombian blow that I’ve stitched into the lining of my luggage.
Ha! I knew it!

Of course, my reasons for travelling in the first place were rather stressful and unhappy, and that naturally took some of the luster off the whole experience.  Still, even when I’m on vacation or excited to be going somewhere, the airports and plane travel between them are never much fun.  And, I know this; so, when I look at people carrying luggage on the subway heading for the airport, I sigh wistfully not because I’m simply naïve.  I guess it must be… willful ignorance?

The grass is always greener, right?  Even when you know better, the grass is somehow still greener.  I can’t decide if that’s a sign of some sort of perpetual, shining hope (“I have faith that there is something better for me out there”) or sheer selfish ingratitude (“Why do they get things that I don’t have?  Why why why?”).  It’s probably a mix of the two.

My point, I think (inasmuch as I have one; I mostly wrote this for a chance to whinge about the customs and immigration office at the airport) is that after a stressful few days, I definitely have some stuff to be grateful for.  I am where I want to be, around the people I want to be around, and doing better than many (probably, better than most) at a time when a lot of people are struggling.  My life isn’t perfect (yeah, it is so not perfect), but it’s hardly terrible, and I am very happy about the things that have gone my way.

This post is heading in an uncharacteristically uplifting direction considering it contains references to a bored security guard at the airport poking my belly button.  I guess the lesson is… don’t be jealous of everything, and try to appreciate what you have?  That sounds reasonable, to me.  I don’t expect to be able to think that way all the time, but it wouldn’t kill me to try to keep it in mind.  On such a positive note, I think now is a good time to wind this down, before my rage about the airport returns.

And, oh my god, I had to turn my laptop on in front of them like four times.  Did it turn into a bomb in the two minutes since the last person looked at it??

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