Jun. 18th, 2015

mangosteen: (allwork)
I live in one place, although most of my co-workers would be hard-pressed to tell you where that is.

So one of the things about flying as much as I used to do, is that it's easy to get into a mode where *place* doesn't exist, per se. That is, the notion of place is purely instrumental; a customer's office must exist somewhere in 3-space, and I suppose this place is as good as any. Airports kind of count as places, but mostly don't; they're meta-places.

There are plenty of books, fiction and non-fiction alike, that document this phenomenon... where the only sense of place you get as a road warrior is the airport you touch down in, because you *have* to know those well enough to get to the next point on the line efficiently. At least for myself, airports are also these interesting beacons of civilization... if one is working normally, so many other parts of the infrastructure of human civilization have to be working normally that things are basically okay. It's comforting.

The service industry knows their most profitable customers. Marriott Hotels are experts in catering to the kind of constantly moving, high-cognitive-load travelers that make up the bulk of non-glamorous business travel. "Don't worry. Your room has the same 2.5 square feet of nightstand space it has in every other Marriott. You don't have to worry where to put things, how to contact the front desk, or even how to read your bill. It's all the same the whole world round." You go from the meta-place of the airport to the non-place of where you landed to the uni-place of yet another Marriott.

Like I said before, normally I don't remember all that much about the places I visit on business. I mean, sure, there are individual restaurants that I'll recommend* and general impressions I get of places**, but it's not like I get involved in the daily comings and goings of the people who live there; it's a high-resolution background image in the video game of consulting.

This all sounds pretty dire, but it's not. It's not like I didn't stop living in Boston during all of this. Friends, connections, comings, goings... all the parts that make up a real functional life. I think one of the reasons that I constantly asserted that I lived only in one place is because I couldn't imagine living in *two* places. Two sets of connections, social calendars, obligations, and all the general freestyle *adulting* that has to happen when one exists in two places.

The closest I ever got to that impossible situation was when work flew me to San Francisco twice in the span of two weeks. for about 5 days each time. Now, the thing about two weeks is that, presuming Godzilla doesn't show up, nothing really changes. The storefronts stay the same, the people on the street are the same, and weekly activities are still happening weekly. The fact that I have plenty of friends there already, helps. It was great to tell people "see you in a couple of weeks" and ask "is this event still happening on Fridays? Cool. I'll be there again." It was incredibly normal. My hours were more normal because I *had* a life outside work, and there was a certain ease with being able to just get into the rhythm of *living* someplace instead of immediately teleporting out.

In effect, I was living in a place where I didn't live, and when I left the second time, it hurt just a little, like I was moving away and leaving friends behind, because I was.

I'm glad I did, though. It was delightfully impossible.

* ...which looks a lot like being an experienced traveler, but somehow misses the mark for me.

** The drive on Texas state route 121 up to Plano from Dallas reminds me nothing more of a giant's offspring having spilled their bucket of Duplo blocks all over the ground: random rectangles, having no relation to any other features, man-made or otherwise.


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Elias K. Mangosteen

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