Worrying has never been my strong point. Don’t get me wrong, I worry far more than la vida demands, but I tend to screw up the process. I neither productively utilize my anxiety to stay ahead of the game (such as packing well before my departure dates or keeping a calendar), nor do I maintain the consistent levels of distress necessary to win me a Valium prescription. Both of these personal failures were recently made evident before my visit to the USA. On Sunday my blood progressively pumped through my veins quicker and more forceful; my breath grew shorter and my brained seemed incapable of concentrating on anything but the hundreds of things that I had left uncompleted. It felt as if my scheduled biannual life crisis was fractioning into trimesters. Walking home from a White Elephant Christmas party, I had a mini panic attack.
While no stranger to worrying, panic attacks are well out of my usual emotional responses, and as a result I was quite, well...worried. I was unable to focus on any one subject; rather my mind raced from my empty suitcases still stacked in my closet, to unpaid bills (my cell phone has since been cut off...oops), to unanswered emails and phone calls. In other words, I was fucked. However, true to form, the suffocating anxiety that might have spurred me to stay awake late into the night editing research proposals, laying out holiday outfits and searching for my immigration forms was short-lived and conquered by 1.5 milligrams of melatonin. Two hours later I was home drinking mate (mah-tay) with my friend and laughing at just about anything and everything. I can pack tomorrow, I told myself.
I woke up early, but I had a breakfast date with a friend who was visiting from Australia which meant I had roughly five hours to pick up my laundry, take out rent money, pay my phone bill (late, too late, still cut off), print out and bind a 150-page thesis on virtual identity construction on Internet dating sites; buy alfajor cookies, yerba-mate, wine, airport snacks and headphones; call the airline to request a vegetarian meal, call to order a taxi to the airport, have coffee with my professor downtown, have lunch with my friend at my house, get my documents in order, and pack my bags. At four in the afternoon I had finally unzipped by bags and starting wrapping my jeans around the wine bottles when the taxi driver rang my doorbell (he was supposed to get there at 5:30)! It took 20 minutes to chuck everything that was categorized and piled on my bed into my bags and another five minutes to throw on shorts and a t-shirt (an act I later regretted sitting in the 50-degree airport terminal). Upon climbing into the taxi, the chauffeur told me that the piqueteros were planning a protest that would cut off the main highway, which is why he came to get me so early. But there was no protest on the highway. No traffic at all actually. I arrived five hours before takeoff.
Despite the mini panic attack, the irresponsibly last-minute packing, and the to-do list with half of the to-dos left unchecked, once I was in the taxi I was golden. Embarking on just about any trip, as soon as I drive away, as soon as my house is out of sight, any residual anxiety tends to fade away. Images of items that I possibly may have forgotten to pack flit through my mind, but I easily calm myself by remembering that I have credit cards. This has been the case ever since I started traveling solo. I love the hours spent in transit. It’s so easy to just relax and submit to the authority of another (don’t get carried away by your imaginations). I’m not driving the taxi, or the bus, or the plane, which means there is nothing for me to do. If anything goes wrong (and it often has, it’s certainly not my fault. And it’s far easier to simply not think about all of those 500 tasks left undone while in transit. Twenty-two hours in two planes, three airports and a commuter train? No problem. Thirty-six hour bus-ride? Yes, please! Indeed, often when I’m out walking in the streets of Buenos Aires stressing about my thesis, I see a long-distance bus drive by and I day dream about being seated in one of its plush seats, on my way to someplace else, doing nothing more that looking out the window.
Arriving five hours early to the airport, I had plenty of time to wait in transit, however sadly without the plush long-distance bus seats. I watched the sky burn from blue to orange and from orange to pink and purple before it finally settled back to blue. While my taxi driver had the foresight to leave two hours early so as to avoid the highway-blocking rush-hour protest, the crew of the Delta flight did not, which unsurprisingly meant flight delays. After a worry-failed 22-hour trip during which two Argentine adolescent girls sweet talked me into giving up my window seat, a subsequent conversation with a cute Quebecois backpacker about working in French-Canadian rock quarries, and 1.5 hour customs process at Atlanta International (ATL, you be a mess), I arrive in Miami and hopped on the train to see my abuelita divina.
More on her later...
with amor and besos