Thursday, November 4, 2010

Aviation, An International Language

I'm sitting in the Heathrow Terminal 1 waiting area. This is where they put everyone to shop and wait for the gate for their international flight to be announced. I purchased my usual batch of music from the HMV store and did a little work, now I'm blogging.

I wanted to record one observation from my multicountry, multicultural travel these last three weeks. I've been in Munich, Germany, London, England (twice), and Athens, Greece. In Munich the language is German, of course, in Athens, Greek. Every sign and every symbol is different from my usual English... even in London the signs and language are slightly different... the Queen's English is different from American English, certain terms are different and the money is different too. One thing, however, is common to all three. That's the language and signage of aviation.

When I got on the plane in Munich, after a week of listening to German and trying to figure out what druken means when I get to a door (that means push - I remember that because druken looks like drunken and a drunken man will fall - or push - forward) I looked out the window of the plane as we taxi to the runway. And there, as plain as day, are the standard runway and taxiway lettering, numbering, colors and words. It felt like coming home. the lighting was the standard lighting, everything made sense to me. I finally knew the language!

In Athens the feeling of familiarity and being "home" when I saw those aviation markings arriving and departing that airport was moving. In Greece, the language is very different and the letters are very different, but almost not different at all. It was more bizarre and it became somewhat disturbing to me to look at regular characters interspersed with deltas, omegas and sigmas than it was to see umlauts and those weird "B" shaped letters in German. I would almost rather be surrounded by characters that have no relation to my own language, Japanese doesn't disturb me that much.

After three weeks out of the country, the comfort of those familiar words, markings and colors give me the grounding I need.. that feeling of being home, even over 5000 miles away from home, put me at an airport where I can see the tarmac and I do feel at home. That's a really nice thing.

Its almost time for them to open the gate for my flight back to San Francisco. I expect I will get extra special security screening this time. I have SSSSS on my boarding pass, when I went through the check-in line my name was highlighted in red. I also just spent a week in Athens, there have been many attempted bombings in Athens the last week, they are still going on now it appears. I would search me giving where I was. I will get to the gate as early as possible so they can search me at their leisure.Such is the cost of travel in the post 9/11 world. I hope this sort of security actually stops attacks.

See you all on the flip side.... Monday morning (assuming good weather) I get to fly! My first flight lesson in over three weeks. I wonder how much I've lost during that time...

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