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On Airplanes and Being

February 19, 2015 | by Emuna Braverman

The last bastion of quiet, wifi and cell phone-free space.

I used to hate flying. Besides the basic anxiety issues, I found it boring. And unproductive. And a waste of time. I can’t really concentrate so I can’t really accomplish anything in the work department. Sure it was faster than a boat but to my compulsive self, just barely. I couldn’t wait to land.

But my attitude has recently changed. As the demands on me, both personally and professionally have increased, I have come to eagerly anticipate my time on a plane. All that quiet. All that private time. All that uninterrupted relaxation.

As someone who has trouble with the “n” word (“no”!), an airplane is the perfect escape. I am unreachable (unless I can’t help myself and I purchase wifi) and I have no responsibilities, obligations or commitments. There are no projects to be completed, no classes to be prepared, no meals to shop and cook for, no phone calls to make and no emails to return. It is just me, my headphones, some music and a good book.

We live in a world that celebrates doing. And I live in a body that feels the same way. I am not happy unless I am doing. I know I need to learn to just be but I always have an excuse why I can’t just sit still and a list of obligations that must be fulfilled. Airplanes force me to just be. And in that sense, they are a gift.

There are of course limits to just being (although I’ve never done it long enough to actually know what they are!) and I’m not ready for a flight to China or Australia, but domestic flights have become a long-awaited reprieve, as valuable as the vacation or business trip that follows.

Airlines are constantly raising the possibility of allowing cell phones on board. I pray they never do. It sounds unbearable, the peace and stillness destroyed by a cacophony of noise as many passengers makes their calls and engage in their conversations all at once. If cell phones are allowed on planes, my peace would be shattered. If cell phones are allowed on planes, my privacy would be gone and I wouldn’t even be able to concentrate on my junky novel! I would no longer look forward with pleasure to those few hours of quiet down time – because they wouldn’t exist.

I hope we can keep this one quiet bastion. I hope that everyone recognizes that we need some cell phone-free spaces and some time to sit and think and introspect.

I’m ready for a break and can’t wait for my next flight. But if the airplane experience becomes as loud and noisy and unpleasant as most restaurants and sports arenas, then it’s time for a switch. I wonder what the Amtrak schedule is…


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