I arrived at the airport right on time, taking my seat in Starbucks by 0707 MST.
My flight, of course, is at 0820, leaving me with nearly an hour until boarding. Why does he do this? you (my dear reader) might ask. Does he like spending time in airports?
Well, yes, actually, but that's not the real reason. It comes back to why I don't like tailgaters.
I spent last night at my parents' house, as my car, bed, and stuff were scarfed by a large truck yesterday. As I was effectively homeless and carless, my dad picked me up in Tempe and drove me up to my ancestral home of Cave Creek. On the way, he noted what he perceived to be a dramatic increase in aggressive driving among women. This isn't a new observation — I remember him pointing this out about the time I graduated from high school — but his point still holds. More often than not, these days, when a car aggressively tailgates me and then whooshes around me at its first opportunity, it's a female.
But now, many years later, my dad has a theory. Evolutionary psychologists might ascribe it to a stress response, brought on by being in a situation (viz. freeway traffic) for which we are biologically unprepared; Christian fundamentalists might point to women's liberation, gender equality, and other insidious liberal institutions that are destroying what it means to be a woman. But not my father.
My father blames soccer.
More specifically, the now-cliché "soccer mom" role. Scottsdale (the closest major muni to Cave Creek) has an unusual percentage of stay-at-home or part-time moms, due to its generally high standard of living. A lot of these moms wind up in the "soccer mom" position: keeping the household running, frantically running errands and picking up the kids and possibly running a business on the side.
These women, my dad believes, have such packed schedules, such intricately constructed days, that even a small deviation from the plan can effectively ruin the day. The women are aware of this — subconsciously, if not consciously — and may even have already suffered that slip, earlier in the day. Thus, under tremendous stress, they frantically drive from point to point in a tremendous hurry. The resulting behavior is interpreted, at least by us Southern folks, as aggression.
I think there's something to this, but it doesn't explain Tempe. The women who tailgate and cut me off in Tempe are usually of college age — Tempe's dominant denizen, demographically. My father (I haven't asked him) might well point to the same underlying phenomenon, but brought on by professional and academic stress, rather than family stress.
Personally, I have a simpler explanation: they're bitches. :-)
Members of my family are not, generally speaking, bitches. In terms of driving, my parents and I prize style highly, thinking it important to park correctly, drive fluidly, and just generally do it right
. This is both a game to entertain ourselves (if not our passengers) while driving, and a demonstration of personal ability. I suspect it stems from my parents' background as pilots. (Ever noticed how, when an airliner banks into a turn, your drinks don't slide off your tray — in either direction? That's a coordinated turn
, where the angle of the airplane and the rate of turn are precisely synchronized to keep the effective "gravity" perpendicular to the floor. Just one example of many.)
We also don't typically find ourselves in tremendous hurries. This is related to the style issue in two ways. First, it helps us maintain it, by not forcing us to speed, tailgate, and be aggressive to get things done. Second, it is, itself, an aspect of style. Tailgating and rapid lane changes suggest, to us, a driver incapable of properly negotiating traffic and driving courteously; arriving late to an appointment, or having to ram your way through traffic to get there on time, suggest a person incapable of properly scheduling and planning.
Which is why I'm at the airport an hour early.
The airport is a big temporal question mark. From curb to gate may take one as little as 10 minutes (as it did today), or as much as an hour — between delays in airport traffic, construction within the airport, TSA screening, and general airport confusion, there are a lot of factors that come into play. The easiest way to reliably get somewhere on time is to plan for the worst likely case. (The worst unlikely
cases — usually involving meteor impacts or cataclysmic floods — are acceptable causes of lateness.)
Now, this is not to say I'm never late. (People who know me just giggled.) Nor does it mean that I judge others based on their driving style or scheduling prowess: these are values to which members of my family hold themselves
. Many of my friends are chronically flaky or crappy drivers and have never heard a word. (On the other hand, some of my friends — hi Jeannette — are pretty good drivers and get crap from me all the time.)
Of course, members of my family also tend to have absurdly good luck at navigating byzantine processes, like the airport. Which leaves me with a lot of time to burn here at the airport Starbucks.
As astute readers may have inferred, from my repeated mention of airports, I'm heading out to Mountain View today. I should have internet as soon as I get into my apartment. I've got the weekend to track down anything I forgot, and then I start at Google at 9AM (PST) on Monday.