Trials, Trauma, and Tribulations of Travel reading

February 4, 2007

People heading for the airport recognize that they will face the typical queues waiting to check-in, for security scans, for delayed flights. They know that they will wait to board, wait for the plane to leave the gate and then wait for a turn on the runway. The flights can be long, and even after landing lengthy waits are not uncommon. I swear when my flight landed in Texas today that it actually landed in Houston and made the rest of the trip to Dallas on land. The point is that there is plenty of opportunity for reading, so books, magazines, and newspapers are typical accessories for the average traveler.

My fear is that I am not the average travel reader. I assume that most grab whatever they are currently reading and head out the door with little thought about it. It has never been that easy for me, and is typically a greater dilemma than what clothing to bring along. Book selection always goes something like this:

Current Book Status: Based on flight time, potential delays, length of entire trip- is there enough of the book in progress left to fill the available reading time? Am I accurately estimating the time needed to finish the book? (I often over-estimate what I can read in an hour). If not, is carrying a second book on board an option? Am I in the mood for a magazine to supplement the book if needed? Wait- am I traveling with someone who is going to want to talk for a portion of the flight (or all of it- shudder)?

Size and Weight Oh no. I’m reading the slip-cased, illustrated, Heritage Press edition of Tristram Shandy. It is the size of a incredibly thick laptop, and must weigh in at about 10 pounds. This will feel like about 25 pounds after a half-hour hike from one end to the other of Detroit International. Then if I have to add supplemental reading material that would add additional weight. Arg. I have to put Sterne on hold and start something new.

Conspicuous Reading Ok. I admit to looking at what other people are reading. I won’t notice what you are wearing (unless it is really outlandish or exceptionally revealing). I don’t care what you eat or drink before or during the flight. But I will notice what you are reading, although never in a judgmental way. It is just interesting to see what others are reading. I love it that people read regardless of what it is they are reading. Of course none of my fellow travelers are as open-minded as me. I know you are judging me based upon what I am reading, so I have to read something that is impressive, or at least doesn’t bring my character into question. It also must not reveal that I have a feminine side. Admit it. If a middle-aged man whipped the latest issue of Glamour magazine out of his backpack, you would make some sort of judgment. (And no, I don’t read Glamour -unless it is one of those days that I have to race to the bathroom on arriving home from work and it happens to be the only thing readily available). Too much of what I read could be misconstrued.

Ok. I’m searching the shelves for a small, lightweight paperback, trade size or smaller. The print must be of sufficient size to be read in less than perfect lighting. Something of sufficient length in case of delays, yet not so thick that it is heavy, difficult to hold, or worse- pretentious. Something that will hold my interest since I easily drop off to sleep on flights if I am bored. Something manly, yet intellectual.

Nothing. Nothing fits the requirements, and there is no bookstore in the local airport. Pamela? How can I bring Pamela on board without some sort of repercussion? The Oxford Classics paperback edition even has the little woman on the cover screaming “girl book.” Only a little better than the pirate and maiden gracing the cover of the typical bodice ripper. So… Plan B- Cloistered reading. We’ve all done it. Read with the book carefully sequestered in the lap so that the cover is not visible to anyone else. Holding one’s hand over the title on either front, back, or spine as the situation demands. Never carrying the book out in the open. Maybe even dragging out that old paperback book cover that was popular a couple of decades ago.

I survived the trip untainted. If not, I’ll never see those people again anyway, right?


4 Responses to “Trials, Trauma, and Tribulations of Travel reading”

  1. sulz Says:

    i enjoyed reading this post even though i have not the luxury or duty to travel, much less do any travel reading!

    and yes, i do that that title-covering bit when i’m a bit ashamed of the fluffy chick lit book i so enjoy reading but not in public. 😉

  2. Dorothy W. Says:

    It IS so hard to figure out what to take — I always take five or so books and end up reading only a bit of one and I wonder when I get back why I took so many, but I just can’t bear to leave home without a stack!

  3. Brad Says:

    Sulz – Thanks. It is good to know that there are others who sometimes are embarrassed by what they read.

    Dorothy – I never end up reading all I take. But I just can’t take the chance of not having enough.

  4. booksden Says:

    I know exactly what you mean, I’m the same way. I try to select my books by size so the bag doesn’t get too heavy but I need to have a variety. I usually pick a good novel, a nonfiction book for writers or inspirational, couple of magazines and a notebook. I don’t get to read them all but I have the variety I need since I read according to my moods and then keep me away from the bookstore right at the airport because it’s possible I can find some new gems to take home with me.

    Clary Lopez

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