Monday, June 21, 2010

Now Boarding - All passengers big and small

My job requires me to travel. In fact, there have been times when I have felt like the George Clooney character (I had hoped that I may also resemble the megastar, but my wife laughed at that idea) in the movie, Up in the Air, spending more than my fair share of time in airports and hotels. While I have developed a system that has made travel as painless as possible, loading onto an airplane still poses challenges.

The first and most obvious challenge is that these trips create time and space away from my family. Now I could joke around and tell you that the traveling is a welcome reprieve from the challenges of family life, but the truth is I need a bumper sticker that says, “I’d rather be at home.” Every time I pack my luggage for another trip, it creates sadness in my heart. Although we have bought webcams and downloaded Skype (software that allows you to speak to a person over your computer, much like a telephone call, but with video) and I can see my family every day while I am traveling, it simply cannot replace the touch of a hug or a kiss on the cheek. I always miss my family when I am gone.

However, a less obvious challenge is simply dealing with my travel comfort. Let’s ignore the delays, the flight changes, the cancellations, and the hustling through terminals to reach my gate in time and let’s start with me. For those of you whom I have never met and may not be aware, I am not a small man. I am over 6 feet tall, I am over 200 pounds, and I have fairly broad shoulders. Now I have no idea who designed the seats in most airplanes, but I can tell you this, they did not have me in mind when they did. Finding my seat is always an exercise full of anxiety as I hope for the 98 lb. Olsen twin wannabe that will allow me some space and the ability to stretch my cramped legs. Unfortunately, in what I believe is a conspiracy by the airlines against those of us in the “plus size” category; I typically find a mirror image of me in the seat immediately adjacent to mine (big, bulky, and uncomfortably jammed into a seat too small for his XL frame). That moment when we lock eyes and we realize we are seat mates and we will be invading each other’s personal space for the next couple hours, you can literally feel the disappointment. To add salt to the wound, that 98 lb. Olsen twin wannabe I had hoped would be assigned to the seat next to me, will almost always sit in the seat directly in front of me, teasing me with what could have been.

Ultimately, we wiggle, squeeze and jam ourselves into the seats designed for someone half our size and use every means of technology and print media (magazines, newspapers, iPods, and even Sky-Mall Magazine) to help distract us from the fact that our elbows have declared war in an effort to gain control of the coveted, high-value real estate called the armrest. Despite my discomfort (and the ongoing elbow battle), the flight eventually takes off and my thoughts wander forward to my return home and time passes more quickly. When my flight lands on the return trip, nearly all of the challenges of travel disappear as I will soon be reconnected with my family. All I need now is for my luggage to arrive with me.

Marriage 101 - Class is now in session

My wife and I recently celebrated a benchmark in our marriage as another anniversary has passed. We have traditionally participated in activities that would celebrate this event, but this year we did more than that this year as we took a walk down memory lane and the lessons learned from those experiences.

So, I am sure you are asking yourselves, what have I learned? Well, the first thing I learned was that I eat cereal loudly. You may be wondering how, exactly, can a person eat cereal loudly? I don’t know, but apparently I do and it also seemed to annoy my wife to no end. I have made a concerted effort to improve the volume of my cereal consumption, but to no avail. Now I simply schedule my morning eating habits at times where my wife is in another room.

What else? I learned I would not have this column (or at least I’d have a lot less material). I believe it would be much more difficult to sell the idea of a bachelor having a weekly column journaling the ups and downs of family life. I also know that I would be missing so many moments that fill my heart with joy. The feeling that grows within you when someone says, “I do” on your wedding day is indescribable. As your family grows, the feeling of hearing your children say, “Daddy, I love you.” goes even further as you realize you have created a family, a family based on love and support.

But that is not all I have learned, my wife is an outstanding teacher from whom I have learned much; I learned that a duct tape wallet is not nearly as cool as I thought it was. I learned that some people like milk in their macaroni and cheese. I learned that some people get dizzy and headaches from watching the way I flip channels with the remote control. I learned my feet are not pretty (I think the term she uses is hideous, but I think that might be just a tad harsh). I learned that my daily time in the bathroom is excessively long. I learned that not everyone loves survival television shows. I learned that some people think it is strange to set the alarm clock on odd numbers only. I learned that blowing your nose in the shower is disgusting. I learned that I actually do snore (although I have seen no actual physical evidence of this alleged fact). And I have been ACCUSSED of not being a good listener, but my list of lessons learned above would suggest otherwise.

In summary, what have I learned from this relationship, this marriage? In spite of the aforementioned annoyances, I know my wife loves me “warts and all.” And all kidding aside, the most important thing I have learned, not only in my marriage, but in my life, is that when we have the right people surrounding us, whether they are friends, co-workers, family, or a spouse, we can become better people, inspired to reach new heights, challenged to think differently and from new perspectives, and to love something beyond ourselves. I learned that marriage can be a wonderful gift, as well as an incredible learning experience.