Just a thought… Right now it feels as though we have no present…. We have a past and we have a future and right now we’re in some sort of transit lounge and there isn’t any connection between the past and the future. [Arundhati Roy]
On 60 Minutes Sunday, we watched an interview with a writer from Delhi, India. Her name is Arundhati Roy and she has written about COVID-19 for the Financial Times.
What she said resonated with me so clearly that I stopped writing my journal about Jenn Casey, and asked Rob to pause the PVR so that we could take it in. She compared where we all are now in this COVID-19 limbo to being in a transit lounge. And I thought how perfect that was.
Here’s how I construed her remarks: our flight has arrived and we’re in a hub – say, Calgary or Frankfurt. We’ve landed and we’re waiting, but the departure board is flickering; we don’t know when or where the next flight is leaving. And so we find a nice corner, plug in our devices and get a coffee to wait this out.
At first, the experience of being in a strange place with just our few fellow travellers is a little exciting. It’s novel to have access to all of the snacks, the WiFi, the magazines and the freedom to do nothing at all while we wait. How often do we get an opportunity such as this?
One hour turns to another. The chairs that were once comfortable, we start to notice, have tears and crumbs in them and don’t feel as welcoming as they once were. Our travel mates are starting to wear on us a little and could use a change of wardrobe. (I’ve no doubt they’re thinking the same of me.)
We start to fantasize about where the next plane is going to take us. At first, we imagine faraway attractions: the gleaming Taj Mahal perhaps, or the winding well-trodden streets of glorious Venice. Reaching into a pocket, we reassuringly pat our passports. Soon, my friend, soon, we think.
Then, as one day blends into another, you realize your sleep was restless and your waking hours are spent pacing the lounge. Has the carpet always been this worn? As we grasp at hopes that are starting to fade, our thoughts turn, not to exotic destinations, but to more familiar ones: perhaps the comfort of the world that we called our lives. The routines and the things we took for granted and yearned to escape as we anticipated adventures worth writing about and experiences that were new. Our existence as it once was is beginning to become a little hazy and we question why we ever took it for granted.
Finally, as we realize the Departures board was unplugged long ago, the days turn into weeks, then months. Will we ever get out of here? We’ve run out of questions to ask and know we would be told “we’ll make an announcement if there are any new developments.”
We’re surrounded in this desolate travel lounge by the same familiar faces day after day after day and, although they belong to people dear to us, our thoughts turn to other people whose hands we want to hold, with whom we long to share a meal. The friends and family whose arms around us make us feel at home because they hold a piece of our hearts – that part of the beating jigsaw puzzle that makes our hearts whole again.
Enough! Some travelers are pounding at the doors, demanding that anyone pull up a plane to take them away, so they can have the vacations they paid for. Get to the adventures they crave. Return to the jobs that are feeding their families.
Outside the lounge, a few shuttles are pulling up, their doors open, but the impatient drivers won’t tell anyone where they’re going and what price we must pay. “Come with us!” they shout. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. There are no roads, but we know the way. And it’s your right to be where you want and live how you want!”
A murmur arises among those of us who have tried to be patient. Do we go with them and take our chances, believing that this was all for nothing, or do we wait in these uncomfortable chairs for word that we’ll be traveling safely together some time in the future? What if the people in charge are wrong and the rogue drivers, ready to take the angriest and most anxious of our fellow passengers away, are right?
We back away from the mob fighting to get through the doors marked EXIT and return to our seats in the transit lounge.
We will wait because that’s what we’re being told to do and we’re trusting those who care for our well-being to send us to the right departure gate when it’s safe for us to go. Does that make us less courageous or perhaps wiser than those who are jamming the exits?
Time will tell. And it seems that’s all we have now – time.
I’ll be back with you here tomorrow. And in the meantime, as I wrote this today (and thanks for sharing this standstill journey with me) I was distracted by this sight outside, above our deck, so I shot a short video. Enjoy. Take a little of his spirit with you today.