The glimmer effect

I’m skeptical of people who say they love traveling. I think they must associate travel with sightseeing: the white sand beaches in the Caribbean; the leaning tower of Pisa and the bulging fistfuls of pizza; the Eiffel Tower selfie complete with a freshly bought beret. These people have become victims of the glimmer effect: they remember only the highlights of their time abroad, not travel–their journey from one place to another.

Travel is brutal. In order to ensure ample time to check-in and get through security, you must arrive two hours before the scheduled take-off. You check in, then strip in the middle of a crowded airport–no belt, no jacket, no shoes–and proceed to a 360° scanner that everyone is pretty sure takes nude photos. Grab your bag, check to make sure nothing has been stolen, then realize you’re hungry. You make your way to the gate, stopping on your way to overpay for a crappy sandwich, bagel, burger; you eat it with distaste in a teeny, ripped airport chair in front of your gate. (That sandwich, bagel, burger has a 75% chance of giving you indigestion later.)

And you wait. If you are me, you wait and wait until your flight should have boarded thirty minutes ago. This isn’t much of a concern because boarding delays are one of the airport’s only consistencies, but then an announcement comes over the intercom saying the flight to JFK is delayed. You try not to panic, though you have to catch a connection to Moscow; you know you have a few hours between flights.

But then you are delayed again. And again.

“Sorry, passengers, there has been a slight inconvenience with flight DL499 to JFK Airport. The flight is not scheduled to depart until 4:30 which would not put passengers into New York until about 6 o’clock PM. This does create problems for those with connections to Prague, Moscow–“

Here you stop breathing for a second.

“Please feel free to consult our help desk.”

Your mom is already at the desk, frantic for the fate of her Unaccompanied Minor, and you shuffle behind, clutching a fistful of tissues because, of course, this is the week you had to get sick.

Help desk: not helpful. It takes them 20 minutes to insist there is nothing they can do for us but reschedule your flight–for two days later. You acquiesce because you are angry, sick, and want to go home. They book the flight for you without adding any amenities whatsoever.

But you’re not done. Go collect your bag just to find it’s not there yet. You are often a pity drink by the staff–free warm soda–then wait another half-hour to pick up your almost-overweight bag. By this time, the afternoon is almost over; you have wasted a whole day in the airport.

Departure: Take Two.

Same bag check. Same security-stripping. Same crummy food. This time, your first flight takes off without major hiccups (though it still does not board at the time indicated on the ticket).

Enter JFK. Bus to new terminal. Strip again for another round of security. Proceed to gate to find your flight delayed. Groan. You wait an additional hour and a half and then board. The waiting continues, however, as you have nine cramped hours ahead of you.

You land, in one piece but barely. So concludes the travel. Brutal, yes, but necessary. Those who claim to love travel experience the same mishaps, yet when we land and see that leaning tower of Pisa or hug a family member we haven’t seen in years, the world just…glimmers.

And we forget. All we see is that perfect photo-op, the smile of that family member–the glimmer effect is complete.



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