Here I am at a gate in BWI, slumped and zoning alongside dozens of other slumping, zoning travelers, awaiting news on a plane that’s SUPPOSED to be leaving for Albany in 18 minutes. SUPPOSED. But we sense it will not, for it is nowhere to be seen. Rumor has it the aircraft in question is somewhere in Baltimore, hopefully within taxiing distance of the tarmac, quite possibly rolling around the streets in search of a decent taco. It’s out there, or so I’m told by what looks to be either a pilot of someone impersonating a pilot. But the the plane is sadly nowhere near our gate.
I am just about to get up and ask whassup when a chipper young announcer lays it all out for us. “The aircraft came from international waters and has to go through extra security,” she explains. “So you’ll just have to wait a few more moments, and then we’ll get you on your way.”
I think, Yippee! I’ll be heading home soon! Hurray! It’ll only be a few moments! And then I think: Wait. What? Moments? What are these “moments” of which she speaks? Aren’t they rather vague in duration? How long IS a “moment”? Potentially longer than a minute, I’m thinking. Why, moments can last hours, days, years, even! And that’s when you DON’T throw in extra airport security! Some moments have been known to go on forever, baby, and not merely in French existentialist masterworks. Moments can last and last and last.
Of course, sometimes you want them to. Certain moments I hang onto for dear life: my first memories of holding my blessed kids, my last memories of holding all who’ve died. Other moments I wish I could dump with a jab in the ribs and a flip of the bird: any and all mistakes I’ve made, fits I’ve thrown, pain I’ve felt. But as hard as I work to delete those moments, they last, too, fouling up my otherwise-empty mental spaces with a lingering fog of regret.
Occasionally, in the throes of what I know will be an absolute stinker, sometimes but not always involving air travel, I gird myself for the inevitable, thinking: Ohhhhh, crap. This here will never, ever end. I’ll be 97 with dentures rattling around my gums, and I’ll still be stuck in this one giant butthole of a moment, scrambling to get out.
On the flip side, I often try to freeze-frame a happy moment as it’s unfolding before me, trying to trap and frame some joyous blip of time before it passes. There was a moment, at a slumber party long ago, when my younger daughter popped a cd into the stereo and cranked up the volume. I remember wading through that scrum of dancing, laughing, pizza-snarfing, cola-swigging middle schoolers as Vanessa Carlton sang wistfully of summer love in her cute little pop-pixie soprano. And I remember thinking — verbally, in just about exactly these words, as though the voice of my future self had taken possession to warn me — I have to hang on to this moment! I have to make it last! Because soon it’ll be over, and she’ll grow up, and this present will be a past that I wish I’d savored. So I need to savor it NOW!
I did. I trapped and framed and savored it. And now, whenever I hear a snatch of “White Houses” on the radio, I zap myself whole through the warp of space-time to that giggling crush of overcaffeinated girls at a sleepover — and I’m there, in that living room, in that moment, re-upping my will to make it last forever.
As for the plane, it took off about 40 minutes late. If you’re counting in airport moments, that’s not even a few. A couple, maybe. One and a half. Tops.