This is how it all begins.
The night before, I pack my bags. I can do this in about 20 minutes if needed, but to be safe, I usually take twice as long. After a lot of experience packing, I have a good system. Running shoes, two pairs of pants, three shirts, and so on. The shoes take up the most room in my bag by far. Adaptors go in the laptop bag, along with my phone, iPod, and notebooks.
I set two alarms for the next morning, but I don’t really need them. I wake up every half-hour, worried that I’ve overslept when in fact I’m really not sleeping much at all. At 4:15 I get up and turn off the alarms that are set for 4:30. Contact lenses in. A last-minute check of the only stuff I absolutely need to travel: passport, tickets, money, journal.
At 4:55 I go outside and walk over to the #16 bus stop, conveniently located just one block away in front of a 7-11. I’m waiting for the 5:04, and it’s usually on time or close to it. I ride the 16 to downtown, and it takes about fifteen minutes with all the stops.
I get off and head to the transit tunnel to catch the second and final bus. Here at 5:30 a.m. there is an odd mix of people coming and going in the tunnel. There are early morning commuters, a few other airport-bound passengers, a few people going to construction jobs, and a lot of homeless men. The homeless men aren’t really coming or going; they’re mostly just hanging out.
For ten minutes we all hang out together, us commuters and Sea-Tac passengers and construction workers and homeless. Nobody breaks ranks to speak to someone else.
The 194 comes and I climb onboard. Along the twenty-minute commute we pick up airport employees and other passengers heading for other cities. Often they are looking through their e-ticket printouts and I can see the destinations; they are almost always domestic cities.
Portland, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Anchorage, Salt Lake City
My tickets are almost always international, although I do often hop to JFK or LAX to get underway. But if not New York or L.A., I’m going to Copenhagen or Frankfurt in one direction; Tokyo or Seoul in the other. From there I’ll travel further to a final destination, and it always takes a long time to get there.
I get off the bus at the only Sea-Tac stop and walk inside the terminal. I’ve been traveling with paper tickets, which means I can’t check in online or print boarding passes at home. I check in at the counter and get boarding passes for the next two or three flights. I never have bags to check, so I’m ready to go.
I shuffle through the security check and walk down to the A gates or the S concourse, depending on where I’m going. I sit and watch the planes take off and think about places I’ve been.
It’s 7:15 a.m. now, and time for boarding at gate A8. I walk down and find my seat. Half an hour later, we’re underway.
And that’s how it begins…
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Image by Ionan