x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Holidays assist in finding peace of mind

Displaced from my normal environment, I notice the exterior world with eyes wide open.

I'm drained, so I go to see family for two weeks.

A man cuts ahead of me in the check-in line for flights to the US. "Excuse me, there is a LINE-UP," I say. The man says brusquely that he's just dropping something off.

Another man asks if I'm going to New York. Yes, I say. "I can tell," he says.

On the crowded bus from plane to terminal in New York, a woman stands holding her baby. "Would SOMEBODY please give up their SEAT for the lady with the BABY?" I bellow. A guy snaps to attention and surrenders his spot.

Displaced from my normal environment, I am noticing the exterior world with eyes wide open; this outlook brings insight, this perspective pleasure.

In the Delta terminal, all the passengers waiting to leave New York are pecking away at Apple laptops that are plugged into power bars that rise by the dozen. It's like an electronic rendering of feeding time at a watering hole.

On Sainte-Catherine Street in Montreal, a corner store sells shisha pipes in its front window; I do a double-take of displacement.

Further on, a shop clerk tells me I will find leggings for my daughter on her store's second floor. The second floor is one floor closer to the ground than I had expected.

The price tag on a trinket says $4. "That's four fifty-five," says the cashier. I forgot that the government always demands a tip.

At the grocery, a two-litre carton of milk costs $4.30. I convert to 14 dirhams or so in my head and wonder if it's too much. A sign in the deli section says "Merry Chritmas"; they must use the same sign guy as the Spike of Prosperty in Abu Dhabi.

At the hockey game, the referee blows his whistle with 2.9 seconds left in the first period and hundreds of people leap from their seats to "beat the rush" at the concession stands.

In suburban Ottawa, I go to a coffee shop that my dad likes for its mix of music and its stack of free newspapers. A sign above the stack says: "Please pay for newspapers at the cash register." Once a clerk asked my dad if he felt like paying for that newspaper he was reading. "Not really," my dad said.

On the E train towards the airport in New York, one person catches my eye amid all the fallen-faced men and women. She is writing a song in a spiral notebook. "I'll tell of a story, a history of struggle and full of pain," it begins. I ask to read it and tell the writer I like how she says "tell of a story" instead of "tell you a story". It makes it more universal, less accusatory; it creates an open space.

The flight back to Abu Dhabi passes over the shadowy Taurus Mountains of eastern Turkey. I wonder what people do for a living in its tiny villages, which from the sky look as forlorn as a bad idea.

Holidays recharge your inner life by reminding you that there is so much to see in the outer world. There is peace in, as the title above this feature says, observing life — in being observant of life. There is peace in that.


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