Thursday, 12-Oct-06

 

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Travel Day

This is my fifth stop at the Frankfurt airport. I guess that makes me an old hand. This place feels like ďmy placeĒ now. Iím ok here and thereís easy familiarity with it. The layovers run about 3-5 hours so this airport and I have had more than enough time to get acquainted.

The first thing I notice when I walk into the peopled areas is the tobacco smoke. Germans like to smoke and there seems to be no prohibitions against smoking in public. At least not in the restaurants and cafes like where Iím sitting writing this. This little cafť, the ďKullfer & BucherĒ is my favorite place for a cappuccino. Iím going to get some breakfast soon.

There are ash trays on every table. Most of them are not in use at the moment but in a couple hours this area will be thick with acrid fumes. I stopped associating food and cigarette smoke back in the 80ís. I suppose my Pavlovian reaction to cigarette smoke now will trigger memories of the Kuffler & Bucher.


Itís odd how tired I feel after I arrive from a 7 hour flight. Itís almost like I was flapping my own arms to get here. I managed to get a solid 3+ hours of sleep on the place so maybe Iím still groggy from that. But after sitting for all that time the first thing I want to do when I land is grab a cappuccino and put my feet up! Iím sooooo tired! It must be the stresses of flying.

Thereís an undercurrent of stress associated with travel in general and flying in particular. Itís there but you just donít know itís there until something slightly unusual happens to set off your alerts and a cascade of all that stress breaks out. I was told about this psychological  phenomenon when I first started working in the home improvement business.

My mentor, Duane Wolf told me that I would probably feel stiffness in the calves of my legs at the end of the day from trying to grab hold of the staging plank through my boots. Our work didnít get more than three stories up on wobbly pump-jack staging. Thatís no more than 15-20 feet off the ground most of the time.  I thought I felt very much at ease but he was right: My calves were sore at the end of the day. The other thing he told me was ďthe worst fall you can have in the construction business is that 1.5 inches off the end of the plank.Ē

You see, staging planks overlap and if youíre not paying attention, youíre acting all cocky, confident and casual, youíll ďfallĒ that 1.5 inches onto the plank below. Itís an awful feeling! Sometimes you need to go down the ladder and have a coffee to settle yourself down.

Itís like that with flying. Everythingís cool, youíre confident and at ease. Then the engines suddenly power down slightly as the pilot makes a maneuver changes direction. Without any control over yourself youíre instantly in a panic about running out of gas! Logic, confidence, serenity go straight out the window and you are flooded with fear. Youíre werenít as easy-going as you thought, eh? The stress in you is like a full cup of water. The cup holds the ďwaterĒ easily, everything  seems OK but a ďfull cupĒ is difficult to manage. The slightest bump and you start spilling emotions of fear, anxiety, panic and dread. Itís normal and itís the way human beings are wired. We try to control it with self-talk (prayer!) and reliance on routine. It all helps but thereís that undercurrent of stress. Itís wearing us down without us realizing it. I think thatís whatís makes me feel so tired after a long flight.

The woman across the isle from me crossed herself three times when we landed.

I donít blame her a bit.


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