Friday, April 25, 2014

Reading in Terminals

I've never been the most voracious reader I know; I used to be a fan of Stephen King and for a brief period spanning the late 80s to the mid 1990s I kept abreast of many, if not most of his latest novels. After that it was the odd John Irving or Umberto Eco novel. I've also read most of the Conan-Doyle-written Sherlock Holmes short stories and books, and a number of Neil Gaiman's novels, even the ones that don't come with pretty pictures.

In the last decade or so, however, I have found it increasingly harder to sit through books that are more than three hundred pages long and with small font. Maybe it's because my nearly forty-year old eyes struggle with the tiny letters, or because I just didn't feel I had enough time, but soon I felt I only had time to sit through comic books or compilations, and even then, not too many of those.

That changed, however, thanks to a series of marathon travels by airplane.

It used to be that some of the most mind-numbing time I would ever spend would be the time I would spend waiting for a flight. For several years now I have been flying from Manila to some far-flung province for work, and more than a few of those flights have been early morning trips, some of them even red-eyes. It was invariably hard to catch up on the sleep I'd lose having to get up at an odd hour of the morning; if I wasn't stymied by the fact that, in waking up I had shocked my system too much for it to settle back down into sleep again, I was dissuaded by the paranoia that someone could lift my things off me while I was in dreamland. During early morning flights I always caught up on lost sleep while on the plane, and not a moment before. Most of the time, I'd travel alone, with no one to talk to, and while I would sometimes surf  the internet or play a handheld video game, it just wasn't that engaging.

But soon I found that books were the perfect antidote to the dreary, half-awake downtime I would spend waiting for flights. I finished The Lovely Bones and The Life of Pi in between flights, the latter of which I actually bought more than a year ago but could never find the time to read. Because I am a slow reader, it becomes that much easier to eat up the two or three hours I spend waiting for the plane to arrive, get ready and accept passengers. Flight delays, of which I have experienced many both coming and going (but usually going), have become a welcome development because of the additional time I get to read.

Waiting for anything is a trying experience, especially when done without adequate sleep, but now that I've figured out how to combat the boredom it's no longer an issue.

The funny thing is, it's been a month since I've traveled anywhere by plane, and suddenly I find myself unable to sit down and read books again. Maybe I can only read in the spaces between travel.

No comments: