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Heading out to the Tel-Aviv airport this morning is daunting. I have to help my kids get ready for school and at the same time go over my packing checklist and handle a problem with my hotel reservation. In the midst of the chaos of school-sandwich-making the taxi arrives, taking mew straight into the morning traffic of Israel’s Highway #4. The driver, a pleasant man in his late sixties, seems calm and undeterred by the convoy of cars standing bumper-to-bumper on the highway. He is happy to engage in conversation, and shares the stories of his childhood, growing up in the town where I now live. I pull out my mobile phone and launch Waze. The app calculates the traffic patterns that it collected from tens of thousands of cars, and tells me that I will be at the airport exactly on time. I look at the traffic jam in front of me. The real traffic jam, not the one that the app is showing on the map, and I simply don’t believe the app. We are barely moving. How will I be there on time?

An hour later, we get to the airport on time, just like Waze predicted, and I leap out of the taxi and spring towards the lines. Only there are none. The drop-off area is free of cars, and inside of the terminal bored airline employees sit behind the counters and chat. I’m surprised at my good luck, and encouraged by my time performance so far I continue to race towards security. I stride quickly, and prepare myself for the worst: a long snake of people holding plastic bins, taking off their shoes, and crawling slowly towards the x-ray machine. But when I get there, I’m the only one there. There is no line. The attendant welcomes me with a smile (everyone loves an easy-going morning), and as I start to empty my pockets she turns to me and asks:

“Are you in a rush?”

At first, I fail to understand what she means. Then I start wondering why she would ask me that. I pause, and she looks at my confused face and says: “I’m sorry, it’s just a boring morning, but everyone seems to be rushing, so I’m running an informal survey to see how many people are late or tight for their flight, and actually have a real reason to be in a rush”.

Airport Stress“Well…” I finally respond, “I guess I’m not in a rush at all. I have plenty of time. But I can see that I was behaving as if I was in a rush…. I wonder: out of the people you surveyed so far, how many were really late or tight on their schedule?” “Not a single one” she says. “Something about this place must be causing them to feel like they’re running late…”

After taking a quick breathe to bring myself back from the imaginary frenzy my mind was in, I look at my watch. I have more than two hours to get to the gate. I will make it on time if I crawled on my hands and knees the entire way. I walk through passport control (no line as well) and am in awe of my mindlessness, of the distorted story that my mind was making up, and how I so easily fell for it.

Arriving at the gate almost two hours before departing, I had plenty of time to reflect of what I had experienced earlier. I guess I am just primed to rush when I fly. Perhaps I’m traumatized. There were times when I found myself running through the airplane sleeve to make it before the doors close, and other times when I got stuck in overnight connections. Somewhere along the way I probably started to think of airports as a zone of stress and danger. But every now and then it could be useful to peek through the curtains of the mind and run a reality check. If you focus on what’s happening in real life, you may discover that nothing, absolutely nothing is wrong.

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