Being-in-time at the airport

Photo by Peter Bakema

Photo by Peter Bakema

It was always going to be a difficult morning. The alarm was set for 3 a.m. in readiness to get to the airport on time for a 5:30 a.m. flight. Security cleared and coffee in hand, the boarding process commenced without a hitch. Strapped in and ready for take off, we began to taxi out to the runway. Then, we stopped. There, we stayed for about an hour before being informed that we needed to be towed back to the gate due to mechanical issues. At the gate, we waited some more for the maintenance crew to arrive. Thankfully, they fixed the issue without too much ado, and we embarked on our journey once more.

Throughout this waiting, I felt my anxiety rise. My whole being reverberated with the anticipation of what might happen if I missed my connection at the other end. It was so important to me to make this connection, not only because I didn’t want the inconvenience of being delayed or because I needed to be somewhere on time but also because I was going home to the U.K. I wanted, needed, and yearned to feel my feet on the ground of that green and pleasant land, and to feel the embrace of my family and friends.

Throughout the flight, I kept looking at my watch hoping that we would make up the lost time, knowing that it was unlikely. I felt the tight knot of tension in the pit of my stomach as my bodily being clung onto the sliver of hope, while my mouth ran dry as my anxiety approached near panic. The flight attendant tried to reassure us upon landing that we still might make the connection, and that he would call ahead to see if they might hold the gate open. The aircraft doors opened, and with strengthened hope and adrenaline coursing through my veins, I ran. I ran as fast as I could, and as far as I could along the concourse, dodging fellow travelers blocking my path, arriving at the designated gate wheezing, shaking, and spent. It had closed and my connection was lost.

I am now waiting at Newark Airport on a nine-hour layover for the next flight to London. I am comfortable, having been watered and fed, and have finally regulated my breathing after my long panic induced sprint. As I sit here waiting calmly and patiently, almost contentedly, I am intrigued by my earlier anxiety. I will now arrive later than planned. I will miss spending one evening with family—where I would have arrived and gone straight to bed—and barring any further delays, should still be able to get to where I need to be in time tomorrow. So what was my panic about?

Being and time.

In my moments of panic, I felt an existential crisis of not being-in-time in the way I felt I wanted, needed, and yearned to be. I was momentarily lost and forlorn at the thought of being stranded somewhere unfamiliar. While my rational self knew that options were available, my lived experience feared the loss of connection to those I was traveling towards. My long anticipated return home was threatened and my amygdala reactive survival mode kicked in. I needed to be in the right place, at the right time, in order for me find my way home, in order to survive. The lost connection was momentarily almost too much to bear as I was temporarily thrown into isolation away from those with whom I felt I belonged. Once again, I am reminded of my embodied definition of home as a place where I can fully exhale having breathed in the nourishment of belonging and acceptance. In the moment of losing my connection to home, I faced the depth of my homesickness.

It didn’t take long for me to regroup and return to equilibrium. I did this by connecting with my friends and family who were expecting me to be at the right place, at the right time, to inform them of our delayed arrival. Such a simple act to reconfigure my sense of Being-in-the-World that relocated me to a new place at another time. Once my connections had been restored, I was able to find delight in my anticipation once more in knowing that I am on my way home.

My flight is boarding now. I’ll see you at home.

— Veronica Lac

Read more stories by Veronica Lac

Keep up with our community – follow us on Facebook and Twitter