The full, upright, and locked position: day one

The moment I stepped away from my brother's car, onto the curb, and into the airport, I felt the tension start to mount. Traveling tension is its own beastie: even if you walk into the airport already holding your boarding pass and photo ID, there's still the matter of climbing out of your shoes and coat, getting your bags onto the belt, keeping an eye on your laptop (should you be traveling with one), and then putting everything back together on the other end of the security screening area. And sitting in the boarding area involves remaining in transition for whatever time is left before your flight boards. I enjoy the process, really. My father taught me how to fly when I was a teenager: get through security, go straight to the gate, check to make sure things are on time and no changes have been made, try to get on and get settled as soon as possible in your boarding group, stay calm and be friendly to airline personnel because most people aren't. That kind of thing.

But flying on December 27 takes traveling tension to another dimension. December 27 is the first day of my profession's annual convention, which draws researchers, teachers, interviewers, interviewees, the beautiful, the wretched, the damned, the hip, and the surly from all corners of North America (and beyond) to a single city--actually, to a single ghetto of chi-chi hotels somewhere within a single city--for three days of tightly controlled and calibrated Academic Mayhem. For seven years out of the past eight, I've left my family (if I've even been able to make it to them before the convention) to head to the A.M. on either December 26 or 27. This year, I was able to leave it till the 27th. And here I am, in an oversized hotel room, taking call after call from friends as they arrive in the city and at the hotel. My one full-on professional duty happens tonight at 8:45 p.m.

(And now it's done; I have given my paper, and it has been received well. And tomorrow I will write more about remaining in, as the flight attendants say, the full, upright, and locked position.)