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holiday part 3: risk, comfort, joy

The Cincinnati airport is like a chain family restaurant. You order your pasta or ribs, your caesar salad, your draft beer. Nothing surprising, nothing really good, nothing too terribly bad.

On the whole, I find that approach to dining a let down. I want more risk at meal time -- the attempt at a truly great experience, even if there's an occasional weird and bad one. I like to meet new foods and wines, same as I like to meet new people. I don't mind familiar faces at a party, but I don't want to go to exactly the same party every time.

But these are low-risk enjoyments. At the extremes of life -- surgery, say, or war, or flying across the continent -- when the down side is a long long way down -- I find the chain restaurant approach very comforting. I don't want excitement at the airport. I want competence. If that means boredom, I will embrace it. I'd rather have a dull but able pilot than a drunken genius.

So, getting back to our trip, I was quite pleased with the Cincinnati airport's predictability. My children liked the place too. Not that they cared about flight safety. What they liked -- what they loved -- was the moving sidewalks.

Funny how time telescopes. Watching them frolic on the rubberized ribbons (the four of them reminded me of otters on a slide, laughing hysterically, skipping backwards and forwards, ducking down and popping up, jumping on and off and running around to do it again) took me back to their first time on an escalator. The years dropped from us like Friday knapsacks at the back door. I forgot that this was an airport, and thought only of holiday. I laughed and played along, until an irritated guy in a uniform told us to stop. That had happened on the escalator too. Back then we'd gone to a coffee shop to regroup with muffins and chocolate milk. Was there a muffin place at the Cincinnati airport? Of course there was.


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