Environmental science, traveling, and the sociology of the unraveling American dream.


If you're looking for more about me, I'm pretty much hanging out over at my livejournal these days. I use this account for commenting on other people's blogs.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Swamp water and the tyranny of flight

This is getting posted from something I wrote yesterday, as I had no net access. (Urgh. I had legit, non-lj need of it, too.) Trip was-- well, survived. Turns out that if you sprain an ankle it is possible to drive an automatic with your left foot. Surprisingly easy, in fact-- although I drive a standard normally and an automatic is already weird for me, so I wouldn't try that one at home.
I'm writing this sitting in an airport in Washington, DC, waiting for my connecting flight. Flying into Washington is strange: everyone is wearing suits. I'm wearing a Joe Boxer pyjama top tee and sneakers, and feeling very underdressed. I also have a latte that I had them put a mint flavoring shot into, which means that I'm drinking something of the color and consistency of swamp water. I look strange here. I figured I had to get out the laptop to look like I'm a diligent and conforming member of society.

Flying into DC was strange. It's not something I've ever done before. The only other time I was in Washington was during the Oklahoma City bombings, and it was terrible. So this was a strange experience. This particular airport, as I'm sure has been reported elsewhere, has some restrictions on some things (I'm being vague here on purpose), and I was wondering why. And then I looked down from the plane and saw the Pentagon. Right there. Right there. And the restrictions made sense.

I travel a lot, which I initially wondered about when I started this job. Was the travel going to start cutting into my writing? I love my job, and writing (because it's something I'll do anyway) comes as a secondary priority in many (or most) ways, so it's not as if I'd ever quit my job to write. (I like to eat, for one thing.) But I did still wonder.

As it happens, traveling is one of the best things that's happened to my writing. Being different places is wonderful and inspiring and interesting -- that's the easy one to point out. But I've also found that being on airplanes makes me incredibly productive. It's the ultimate isolation chamber. I'm totally alone, people glare if I try to step over them to get away from the laptop, there's usually not much to look at once you get up above the clouds (and before that you're not allowed on the laptop anyway), and the nice stewardesses bring me Cokes and pretzels while I work. Right now I'm just writing crits and posts and playing around with short stories, but when I was working on the novel I was getting a solid fifteen or twenty pages to two flight legs. Flying may just be my ace in the hole on NaNoWriMo this November.

I have to wonder, though: why do people think of traveling as glamorous? It's not. It's dirty and sweaty and nasty and gross, and stressful, and horribly confusing. I love it, mind you, but still -- glamour is the last thing I'm looking at here, sitting in DC with my swamp water latte.