Today I suddenly understood why I am sometimes really uncomfortable in this temporary house. It is not the house’s fault. It is a nice house. It is a good house that has been a welcoming home for over three decades. Sometimes I feel captured by it, not welcomed by it. I feel like I am trapped on a trip and cannot get home.
I have had this feeling before. Sometimes long or even short business trips evoke a strong overwhelming sense of claustrophobia and a powerful feeling that you have to get home.The feeling seems to be universal, or at least it is a story that is universal. From Ulysses to current airline advertising the desire to get home rings true. These days there are multiple versions of the commercial about the person who dashes from a meeting to see if they can change a flight and get home earlier. The commodity being advertised is not the airline itself but that the airline will help you get home sooner. Home is a powerful force that exerts itself on your psyche in small, unexpected ways.
I was once in Washington, DC on a business trip. I concluded my work successfully and was scheduled to go home on an afternoon flight the next day. I was tired and glad that the work had gotten done. My scheduled flight was perfectly timed, I could get up at a reasonable hour, eat breakfast, pack and get to the airport without rushing.
About 9 pm I started to feel like I just had to be home. It is not at all about panic or anxiety, it is just about being spread too thin. I took a cup of herbal tea and a book to bed thinking it would be soothing and I was very tired so I would fall asleep. After all, it had been a long day and the work had been successful and I was happy about that. About 11 pm I thought I would watch a little television. At 12 midnight I thought perhaps a cup of water would be nice. At 1 am I thought I would call Delta and see if I could get an earlier flight. There was a flight that left Dullas Airport at 5:45 am. I knew security would be long so I calculated backwards. If the flight left at 5:45 am, I needed to be there about 3:45 am. During normal traffic it took a minimum of 45 minutes to get from my location in DC to Dullas Airport. I had to leave no later than 3:00 am and it was 1:45 am. I thought I could make it. The reservation agent had gone to heroic lengths to find a seat but it was going to cost to change my ticket.
I took a deep breath and said to the enormously patient Delta reservation agent, “book the flight.” I called down to the front desk for a cab, gathered my stuff, took a quick shower and put on a workout suit. I had never, ever flown in anything like that. Now it does not seem so radical since a lot of exercise clothes are cross-purpose but back then business travelers wore business suits.
The taxi ride and check-in were uneventful. As I rounded the bend toward security my heart sank. There must have been a thousand people there. You could not even tell if there were lines. I heard people telling each other it was going to take two hours to get through security. I had two hours until the flight left. As we inched forward my desire to be on the plane grew. My worry that I would miss the plane grew too. Eventually I did get through security and got to the plane just in the nick of time. As I took my seat the person beside me said, “My, you look nice. Most people these days think that dressing casually is a license to be a slob.” I sighed and sank into my seat and slept peacefully all the way home.
Today as I lay in bed feeling miserable with the flu, I remembered that night. I realized that it was not dissimilar to how I sometimes feel here waiting for my home to be rebuilt after the fire. That time I did get an earlier flight home. There is no earlier fight for me now.
Understanding the underlying aspect of the disquiet I sometimes feel in this house makes it easier to live with. I know that my plane does not leave yet but that when it does I will sleep peacefully all the way home.