LUBBOCK PRESTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — As with most pre-departure checks, I go through the usual habit of checking pockets, zippers, pouches, and just about any other spot where I can stash documentation. Nerves set is as you realize that you might have forgotten some fragment or artifact — perhaps more so when you’re an alien resident. Passport? Check. Visa pages? Check. Passport photos? Check. Health Authorizations, verified by the Taiwanese Consulate? Check. There’s a few more, but they’re zipped away in the pouch of a pouch, so I’m not checking them again.
Airport departure was a bit more intense than usual today, and I’m not sure if it’s the length of my travel (six months might raise a few eyebrows), or if it’s the recent unrest in Iran and Iraq. Yet, what is normally a short document check turned into a bit of an interrogation as I dropped my bags off at Lubbock Preston for their journey to Taipei. Two bags: one for clothes, and one for office supplies and a few dozen Texas Tech-branded gifts for my Taiwanese colleagues. Gate agents check my bags. And my passport. And my visa. And my return flight tickets. And my passport again. And my visa. And then a few handwritten notes in ledger, before I was on my way.
I’ve still one more stop. Writing from Denver’s United Club East, charging my devices and myself (the coffee machine’s piping hot, and the lounge is pretty empty). A first-class upgrade is a nice tough to the trip and perhaps, will ease some of the later screenings—or at least, give me a comfortable seat.
Television monitors throughout the airport are covering what feels like a war: attacks on US bases in Iraq. A downed Boeing flight leaving Tehran. The airport seems a bit quieter today. A bit more tense. No photographs, because I feel like I’d make somebody nervous.
Emails from the US Department of State hit back-to-back: one warning Americans about potential terroristic threats globally and asking us to keep “a low profile,” and the other reminding us how to vote absentee in the 2020 election. Two sides of a Democracy that’s stood for over 200 years.
In front of me, I’m charging my Oculus Quest helmet for a few demonstrations on Friday. At least some part of me thinks about hiding in virtual reality for a bit. Perhaps the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social demands of that space can prove a good distraction from tension. Or at least, provide me some control over it.
We’ll board the flight soon, and we’ll see the Earth from 35,000 feet. A reminder that we’re all on the same sphere, but we’re not getting along very well. Parts are on fire literally, and others are about to go up in flames, it seems.
Let’s hope for some perspective, soon.