succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Parents, Questions, and Safety Net

(I'm a little drunk, so this post may not be as coherent as I would like)

It's hardly news, to people who know me, that I think my parents are awesome. Also, that I'm well versed in their own personal histories, and that makes me cut them even more slack, and in fact, leads me to be impressed that they even get out of bed each morning, much less that they turned out to be totally capable parents*.

But the thing about their parenting, and the family that they created, that's really been crystallizing for me lately, is the fact that they created this space where it was completely safe to question virtually anything. One of the quintessential stories from my pseudo-Catholic upbringing is that I still believed in Santa Claus at a time when I knew that the date for Christmas was chosen to cover up the pagan holiday of solstice (Dad, in the back of the church, during midnight mass, whispering in my ear: think about it Megan. why would the shepherds be out with their flock in the dead of winter? they only slept with their flock during birthing season, and that was in the spring. and what leader would order a census in the middle of winter?). And the thing is, that didn't detract from faith. The stories in the Bible could be depicted as allegories, as symbolic, without lessoning the power of religious beliefs.

When we were much younger, deemed too young to behave ourselves in church, Dad would read to us from the Bible on Sunday mornings. We were encouraged to interrupt with questions. No question too dumb or weird or arbitrary or threatening. Questioning was a good thing. It strengthened belief and ideas.

That same philosophy was applied to everything. I can't imagine a scenario where asking questions was inappropriate or dangerous or stupid. Challenging ideas, poking around their edges, articulating their strengths and weaknesses, that was the whole point, wasn't it? Wondering about things, being confused by things, questioning the logic of certain paradigms. All were encouraged. If an idea, a belief, couldn't stand up to such challenges, then why cling to it in the first place?

It's taken me a couple of decades to realize, but that's an incredibly rare, incredibly safe, space in which to be raised.

*that's not to say they didn't make mistakes, because hi, we're all fucked up in our own special ways. but all things considered, they did a pretty bang up job, if I do say so myself.

Ode to an airport
(written on one of my flights last week)

I know I'm biased, since ATL was my home base for six years. But I just don't get all the complaints about this airport. Yes, pretty often, the flights are not on time and/or there's a lot of traffic on the runway. It's the world's busiest airport! What do you expect? Meanwhile, today, in 30 minutes I went from my arriving flight in concourse B to my departing flight's gate in concourse E, checked in, got my seat assignment, back-tracked out to the main concourse lobby, got a slice of pizza, went to the restroom, and still had time to call my Mom before they started boarding the plane. Where else, I ask you, would even half of that have been possible? Because unlike so many other airports I've spent time in (I'm looking at you, Houston), the Atlanta airport is laid out in a logical, coherent fashion such that it's possible to make a 30 minute connection without a stressful mad dash. Instead, all that is needed is a brisk walk and a train ride.

Plus, they know how to move people. They may not always be as patient and polite as I would like them to be, but hell, I'll take efficient over friendly any day (and more often than not, in my experience, they're both). I've lost track of the number of times I rounded the corner toward security only to pull up short, mutter fuck under my breath, and join the hundred or so other people in line. But eventually, I learned to stop muttering my choice expletive, because a hundred or so people take about 15 minutes to clear security in Atlanta. Unlike other airports I've been to (I'm looking at you, Reagan National) where a dozen people seem to stand in line for 30 minutes or more. Seriously, I get that Reagan is the smaller, domestic choice compared to Dulles and BWI, but it's in our Nation's Capital and it's a freaking gong show! Every time! So embarrassing.

Lastly, some constructive criticism. Concourse E in Atlanta is the only concourse lacking the fully coherent organizational structure of all the other concourses - longish hallway, split in the middle with escalators to the train to other concourses. Concourse E doesn't make any sense. It's a haphazard collection of gates in all directions. It's also clearly under construction. What's up ATL? The rest of the airport works like a well-oiled machine. Fix up the international concourse, eh?