After four grueling days of attending lectures and poster sessions at the Zebrafish Conference on Development and Genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I’m finally back in Boston.  Due to bad planning on my part, I had to wait at the Milwaukee airport for five hours before I could catch my flight home.  Fortunately, I had David Sedaris to keep me company.  In fact, I almost finished two of his books over the entirety of this trip.  At one point, I was snickering uncontrollably while sipping tea at a cafe. His colorful memoirs filled with strange encounters and outrageous characters put my life to shame.  I wish I had such misadventures to write about,  As it is, I have nothing to offer but my mundane ruminations during the painfully uneventful wait. 

I used to love flying.  Not that I don’t anymore, but the romance of it has worn off.  Small and cramped places may have seemed like exciting new hiding places to an eight year old, but now they just spell aching knees and a neck cramp.  Either I am too short or the seats are not designed with Asian features in mind; because the headrest is positioned just so that it can tilt my head downward, and no amount of maneuvering can relieve me of such an uncomfortable position.  Before every plane trip, I make an extra effort to shower right before, so that I would board the plane smelling like honey and milk.  Yet, how is it that just a couple hours into the flight, I can already feel the oil seeping out of my facial pores and my hair becoming tangled and matted—probably absorbing the residual oil from previous passengers whose heads have graced my headrest.  But the worst part is the dryness.  The thin, static filled air that seems to suck the liquid out of your eyes.  Woe to those contact wearers who forget to bring lubricating drops.  Every blink is a reminder that their eyeballs have morphed into wooden golf balls. 

I do not hate traveling.  In fact, I love the sense of departure.  I love the idea of leaving everything that I know behind.  Making a grand exit.  On the particularly crappy days, I daydream about hopping onto the next flight to Cuzco.  To throw my hands up and say “I’ve had enough of this shit” and just let a plane take me anywhere.  Laying back on my seat, I listen to the engine’s high-pitched scream as it struggles to put into air this 100 ton hulking piece of metal.  The air taking on that familiar sterile taste as the ground drops far below.  Freedom.  Now all I have to do is to concentrate on holding my bladder so that I will not have to trek all the way to the restroom, shared with 30 other gross, oily passengers.  I close my eyes and imagine the kidney stones that are calcifying with every passing minute. 

i open my eyes to the welcome sight of the stewardess handing me two chocolate chip cookies wrapped in a napkin.  Good ol’ Midwestern hospitality.  Warm and gooey, they almost—just almost—make me forget about my eyeballs.