Mar 232013


Over-excited people rushing by. Overpriced food and drinks. The smell of people having been cooped up in metal boxes for too long. Inexplicable delays and gate changes.

Airports. What’s not to love?

This post was written 2 days ago, but due to bad internet connections I haven’t been able to upload it so far…
I’m writing this at Charles de Gaule airport, France, where I’m waiting for my connecting flight to Cairo. I once vowed to myself that “having to travel for a bit” should never be an excuse to not uphold a friendship, so I’m on my way to visit a dear friend that I met in Peru.

That’s not the subject of this post. It’s about airports. Or perhaps better, one funny thing I noticed today at this airport.

Airports have moving walkways. I don’t really know why, they don’t move faster than you can walk and you can’t walk on them because there is always someone with 3 suitcases, 4 bags and 5 children in front of you, blocking your path.

Charles de Gaule has a lot of them. Fairly small ones. Meaning they are sometimes empty. So I decided to indulge myself and cross the six meters that this particular one spanned at a slightly higher pace than I would normally walk, by combining my own walking speed with that of the moving walkway.

Except that I didn’t. Because it wasn’t turned on.

Now, a moving walkway when it’s not turned on, for all intents and purposes, is no different than a solid piece of floor. Imagine my surprise when I stepped on it and I momentarily had to grab the railway so as not to lose my balance. Subconsciously I had been expecting the thing to move and when it didn’t my mind over-compensated, resulting in a moment of disorientation.

Always in for a bit of experimentation, I noticed the next empty walkway, also turned off. This time I saw it. I knew it wasn’t moving. I was prepared.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the exact same moment of ever-so-slight loss of balance.

My subconscious must have a fairly rigid set of rules: Moving walkways always move => Adjust your balance to compensate. And when the world suddenly changes, the result is a feeling of discomfort.

Another funny thing happened at Paris airport (which I was not aware of at the time of writing this post): They lost my luggage. Always a nice surprise to arrive at your port of destination, but without the stuff that you hoped you would have… Nothing to be done about it (go with the flow!), I bought some bare essentials yesterday and they promised to send my bag to the apartment of the friend where I am staying. Roughing it in Egypt!
The same thing of course happens in real life. We’re used to things being the way they always were. We like the expected, to be able to predict what is going to happen. And of course that makes sense. Having to re-invent the world every day anew would be impossible. On the other hand it also makes us resist change.

If I were to walk the non-moving moving walkway a few more times, I’m sure my brain would adapt very quickly. And the previous discomfort would become the new expected norm. For moving walkways this may not be the most useful, as in general moving walkways do move. But for all those other parts of life where changes are more permanent, railing against them doesn’t do a lot of good.

Better to go with the flow. Or the walkway.

  2 Responses to “Expectations”

  1. Don´t rough it! Go on a shopping spree and send the bill to the airline afterwards! That is the advantage of airlines losing your luggage. The “well, I had an important business meeting and I couldn´t possibly NOT show up in a suit, right? So I had to buy one. Here´s the bill” feeling…

    Also, when you are somewhere (a rare place, I know) where people know walkway etiquette (stand on the right, walk on the left), they can be significantly faster than walking… Particularly in places where the distances are huge (I am looking at you, Frankfurt!)

    • “Unfortunately” I already have my stuff back before I had time for some heavy duty shopping. I’ll definitely remember this one for the next time though 🙂

      And how many places have proper walkway etiquette?

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