Saturday, December 30, 2017

Self-help tips from the NYT, followed by a ramble

Willpower is an uphill battle; try pride, gratitude, and compassion.
We too often think about self-improvement and the pursuit of our goals in bracing, self-flagellating terms: I will do better, I will muscle through, I will wake up earlier. But it doesn’t need to be that way, and it shouldn’t: Self-control isn’t about feeling miserable.
From the Times' piece on be happy by thinking like an old person, this stuck with me:
None went to a job he did not like, coveted stuff she could not afford, brooded over a slight on the subway or lost sleep over events in the distant future.
I thought about it again this morning, in response to a real dick move not on the subway but on an airplane. It was a full flight, and the woman boarding just ahead of me (but sitting at least a few rows behind me, it turned out) took up some premium bin space with a puffy coat. I asked her to take it out at least until I could get my bag in; she suggested that I try a bin a few rows back. I told her that bags take priority over coats in bins. The woman in the seat next to mine--already sitting down--told her that they've asked people not to put coats in bins. The offending woman took her coat and huffed ahead, who knows how far back into the plane. My seat-neighbor and I rolled our eyes in solidarity and mild indignation at the woman's entitled, dickish behavior. I started to take satisfaction in the indignation, and then I remembered the line from the Times story.



Why was it so tempting to dwell on this incident? Instant gratification in being in the right, and winning the battle, at the expense of the longer-term benefits of letting things go. My mother--never one to let go of the proverbial subway slight, and thus not among the happy old people to be interviewed by the Times even when she could think and talk--would say that the woman's dickishness is a microcosm of the overall dickishness in the world. I don't entirely disagree with her; people should be called out and shamed for dick moves. And she was; the system worked. So now why not let it go? We've got to believe that the universe will karmically deliver, and that it's not up to us to right the minor wrong by letting it stew in our head rent-free.

***
It was not long before this incident that I calmly realized that I'd had it, even though nothing had gone wrong. I was just so sick of airports and gates and boarding lines. There'd been so many: Dulles to Narita to Singapore to Kuching to Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur to Narita to Chicago to DC. And those were all efficient, inoffensive boarding processes. AirAsia drastically limits how much you can carry on, so boarding happens quickly and there's no fighting over space. Of all those flights, only one (Singapore to Kuching) was delayed, and only by an hour). But there were just so many of flights, so much getting on and off planes. I didn't give this morning's flight to Boston a second thought ahead of time, it was such a hop. Until I found myself in the gate area and realized that I once again found myself in a gate area.

Many people fly a lot more than I do, and many of those people probably have status, though--having had status--I can't say it helps much, especially now when there are so many levels of who boards first, and especially on a longer flight, I don't feel the need to spend any more time on the plane than I need to. Instead of status, I have tens of thousands of miles (hundreds of thousands, total) across four airlines.

What does help is PreCheck (and Global Entry). I allowed plenty of time this morning--something about a super early flight, and about having to arrange a cab at a fixed time (before Metro opened) forces discipline, rather than my usual mad dash out the door for metro. But there's still something calming about not having to spend longer in the security line than you have to, and even if the line's not much shorter, it's nice to not have to take out your stuff (liquids, tablets). I've only had PreCheck since April, and it's been amazing. I've used Global Entry twice, and you really do breeze through. I told Alex about Mobile Passport, which is almost as good (you have to submit information ahead of each entry), and he breezed through almost as quickly. It's worth it because it's only $15 more than pre-check, and pre-check is well worth it.

The guy I dated a year ago said he couldn't believe I'd once dated someone without a passport, adding that he's not sure he'd date someone without global entry (which I didn't have at the time, though I'd traveled internationally more than he had). I don't need to judge or filter people based on their travel commodities, but I will tell you that these two are well worth the $100. And FFS, get yourself a pair of QC25s. Jay texted the other day thanking me for pushing him into getting a pair.

Pre-check is especially valuable at Dulles (I didn't even get to use it in June when I needed it because--here I go, losing my zen--those idiots at the regular security line told me it didn't exist. I used it in December, and even though I wasn't pressed for time, the more serene screening area put me in a better place. QCs do the same. But what's even better for your piece of mind than any set of high-end head phones or shorter line, is letting things go. So I hear.

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