But Then How Will We Know We’ve Arrived?

In general, I think the comings and goings boards in airports and train stations invite reverie, be it wistful (“Ah, Paris…”), wishful (“Someday, Bombay…”), or wondering (“Where the hell is Show Low?”). But I gotta hand it to whoever programs the Departures monitors at the Miami International Airport for this bit of handiwork.

Unknown FliFO

Who boards a flight when the airline doesn’t know where it’s going? What does that person pack? How into their long and engrossing book do they let themselves get? Should we be concerned that a flight to “Unknown” is departing from an airport whose three-letter IATA code is M.I.A.?

Who works such a flight? Does the crew know where they’re going? Surely the pilot, at least? If they don’t know where they’re going, how do they pace their service?

Who walks up to the Departures monitor looking for this flight? ” I just want to see if Auntie McGee got off on time.” “Where was she going?” “I don’t know.” “OK, let’s look under ‘Unknown’… There it is!”

And still it managed to depart late. You don’t know where you’re going, but you know you’re late leaving to get there? Who are you, Eeyore? You probably  also assume it’s going to be raining when you arrive and all the good-looking men will be married or straight. You might wanna read up on Positive Mental Attitude before you plan your next mystery vacation.

We were looking for our own departure gate when my flying partner brought this to my attention, and my imagination instantly bounced out in a thousand directions at once. The incompetence! The hilarity! The What the Hell?! So much of the magic has been sucked out of travel for me these days. For most of History, the Journey has been as big an adventure as the Destination itself. And flying certainly used to be, but now it’s a blaring, billboard-saturated, TSA-monitored hassle. Most days. Every once in a while — and it helps if you’re in an airport with good cuban coffee — I’m reminded that the main reason I was drawn to travel was to explore. This day I eventually winged off to Houston, or Chicago, or another who-remembers-where that I’ve been to a million times, but my wheels had been set a-turn. Yeah, I’ve ben to hundred of cities in dozens of countries, but it’s still true: an immeasurable majority of the world’s art, food, architecture, waterfalls, smells, and smiles — not to mention the entirety of Show Low, Arizona — are yet Unknown. If you’re gonna bother to put your camera, your notebook, and a clean pair of underwear in a bag and set out, what better place to go?

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