There are two things that happen without fail every time I am about to travel, no matter the length of the upcoming trip. One: starting about two weeks before the flight (for it is always a flight), I have strange “airplane dreams”. They are neither positive nor negative, just…odd, heavy with mood. Well, the ones where the airplane snaps in the two during ascent could be categorized as bad, except the flight continues as normal, just with a wide-open front view. Often, the plane in these dreams is cruising at a very low altitude, coasting between mountains, skyscrapers, so close I could almost reach out and touch them, the way people passing between icebergs on Arctic cruises must experience. Once, I was flying along what felt like a cliff’s edge, except what was flowing over the edge wasn’t water but clouds. All this makes me think I have some deep-seated issues around flying, but thankfully none of them translates into an actual fear of the activity. So it’s all good. Otherwise I would have to stop here, and wouldn’t be able to go on to share what the other half of my usual pre-flight thought process looks like.
That part can be summarized in one word: mama. As in, things mama has always told me regarding what I should do prior to travel. Hardly any of which I ever do, of course. Or at least not to completion. That doesn’t stop the tape of her do’s and don’ts from playing in my head. Such as: on the day before your trip, have nothing left to do. As in, on the day before your trip, you should be finished all your preparations and only relaxing. That’s right, a whole day of simply relaxing. To say that I’ve NEVER managed this would be an understatement. But I do try. I try to have the last zen hour before I head bout the door. Somehow though, that hour seems to go poof! and next thing I know I’m dripping sweat as I go down the elevator wondering if my memory of locking my front door is a fresh one from today or a déjà vu.
The other thing I always remember her advising is to have a good solid meal before the flight. Now this, I adhere to. Nobody ever had to lecture me on the importance of meals, flight or no flight. But I have a special relationship to this pre-flight meal. I treat it as if I’m on death row, which, let’s face it, is always a possibility. What’s an airplane but a cylinder packed with rows of potential and instant death? So I make sure to have a favourite meal, and make sure to really stuff myself, in case it is my last one. On a related note, in case I don’t make it back down (or rather, I do, but not in the way originally intended), I clean my home top to bottom and place all potentially embarassing items and stacks of journals (same thing, I suppose) in that secret location which no one will ever guess and will only get discovered maybe by a demolition crew in the far future or a team of archaeologists in the far FAR future.
Mama also always said to have one full change of clothes in my carry-on, or at least a change of undies. I have yet to put that into effect as well. I’ve never been stranded anywhere, maybe that’s why. Also, I think becoming grimy and gross is part of the romance of getting stranded. Besides, how often do I have a really legitimate reason to shop for new clothes and new everything, a reason other than “I’m bored with my stuff” or “ugh I have nothing to wear”. In case of stranding, the latter will actually be true and the former will be considered putting it mildly.
Oh and I just remembered another one: always have cash on you. On more than one occasion, I’ve felt the sting of not having heeded this, and bore witness to how cash is the closest thing there is to being able to perform actual magic, yet I still don’t do it. I always say I will, but it ends up being one of those last minute things I decide I’m too sweaty to do as I go down that elevator second-guessing myself about the lockedness of my front door.
There is one thing mama never mentioned though: travel medical insurance. I’ve been away from home for long trips without it, and I’ve been away from home for short trips with it. There’s really no logic to how I decide which time I am going to get it and which time not. I go with a hunch, I suppose. I ask myself, “Do I feel marked this time around?” Marked for disaster, that is, marked for some freak accident or illness or someone knocking my teeth out of my head (accidentally I hope). And if I do, then I go with it. Another deciding factor is how much money I feel like figuratively flushing down the toilet. Because that’s how it feels, when I return home with no stitches or prescriptions to show for the money spent. But then, I think how relieved mama would be to see me back home in one piece. So this time, I went with it.
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