Practicing the art of flying at LaGuardia Airport

betty ming liu Relationships, Travel 4 Comments

Hello from Ann Arbor, Michigan! I just arrived for a week in my new Midwestern home-away-from-home. The flight from New York was such a horror show that it got me reflecting on My Journey: What do 21st century travelers need to survive airplanes and life in general?

I always find the patience to go on from a wise writer who my creative writing students either love or hate. But thanks to her, I have my favorite mantra:

“Bird by bird, buddy, bird by bird.”

The line comes from Anne Lamott’s memoir, which I often assign as required reading. Some students find her rambling, anecdotal writing style inspiring, too. Others can’t stand her. To spare my beloved haters and avoid repeating myself, I’ll just link you here to the passage from the book and my blog post about it.  :)

Basically, Lamott makes the point that life gets lived one step at a time. She counts each step as a bird that takes flight. The image really speaks to me because I now find myself in a commuting relationship that means flying regularly from New York to Michigan.

My new lifestyle scares me because busy airports are easy targets for terrorists. The 21st century reality is that flying puts travelers in harm’s way. Flying is also frightfully expensive. Now that my boyfriend has relocated to a new job in Ann Arbor, we’re both handing hundreds of dollars over to the airlines every month.

And then, there is the time suck factor.

Yesterday’s 2:46 p.m. flight out of LaGuardia Airport was delayed. We spent SEVEN HOURS sitting on the runway, grounded by passing regional thunderstorms and a tornado watch. We were on the plane, off the plane, on it again. After a total of eight hours, we took off just before 11 p.m. The flight itself lasted barely an hour.

I was so cranky. But things still have a way of working out. After all, birds are beautiful creatures.bird by bird 486 height

Travel tips 

Even though middle seats are awful, I was lucky to sandwich between two really nice people:

  • The middle-aged guy to my right was a good-humored traveler who flies every week and kept things in perspective. He said he encounters these types of weather delays at LGA a few times every year.
  • The millennial woman to my left inspired me to update myself with iPhone travel apps. Long before the flight crew announced our rescheduled Delta flight, she already knew about it because it showed up on her Delta app. She also told me about Via, a relatively-cheap ride-sharing app for Manhattan. I finally installed Uber too.

Getting used to a commuter romance is exhausting, unsettling and exciting, all at the same time. It many ways, it feels like taking on a new job. New jobs require work hardening, the process of building endurance. Well, I’m always up for new gigs. So, onward.

Anne Lamott, still relevant 

I’ll just close today with one more mention of Anne Lamott. In addition to bird by bird, I am inspired by her healing role in the horrifying 2015 sexual assault of the 23-year-old Stanford University known as Emily Doe.

During the June 2016 sentencing of attacker Brock Turner, her powerful letter to him was read out loud in court. The statement was long, detailed and emotional. It ended with the victim quoting Lamott:

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

Great words for holding on to love and sharing it in an evil, difficult world. There’s so much to fear but fear can’t win. It just can’t. Shine. I have to keep shining as I struggle with the wrinkles that air travel brings to my relationship, finances and writing schedule.

So from my perch on this planet to yours, I’m sending you best wishes for a happy July 4th weekend. May it be filled with safe travels, much love and celebration of what it means to be American on our Independence Day.

And what’s up with you? How do you deal with fears, large or small?  Would love to hear your stories and solutions.  :)


Comments 4

  1. Betty: I wish you luck and stamina regarding the need to fly frequently. As for me- I gave up flying after my last flight – a nightmare of disorganization, delay, rude treatment, serious discomfort and appalling so-called food. From now on it’s Amtrack. If I go to Europe again, it will be by ship. I will only fly if its a real emergency.

    1. Post

      Toby, thank you for your good wishes. I need them.

      And, I hear you. The Delta people were perfectly nice. I even felt sorry for them; I’d never be able to be a flight attendant. All those cranky passengers! Let’s see how things go with this commuting thing.

      One of the blessings of the modern age is FaceTime. We quickly learned from my daughter. Since middle school, her and her friends kept FaceTime open on their phones and laptops. So now, my bf and I function in real time with each over via FT. We turn it on in the morning when we wake up and leave it on until we say goodnight. It helps!

  2. Another possible solution to your Ann Arbor – New York relationship might be to find a place in between, and drive. Ann Arbor is about a 10 hour drive from NYC, so if you each drove 5 hours you could save a lot of money, and maybe even break even on the amount of time you spend traveling (an hour to the airport, arrive an hour before the flight, another hour in flight, and an hour at the end to claim baggage and go to the final destination)

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      Lee, that is indeed another idea. My takeaway from your comment is the importance of being flexible. And, the need to get to know the area, spread out a little. Or, a lot. Once we get settled in Ann Arbor, we might be able to branch out more. So thank you for this thought!

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