Last week as the plane I’m on begins to taxi out to the runway, I look out the window. Correction. I look in the window.
Somehow – I didn’t even want to consider the how at first – inside the window by my seat roams a small dark speck. A speck with antennae.
I point it out to the guy sitting next to me.
“Oh yeah, there’s an ant in your window.”
“But how can an ant get between two panes of glass, especially on an airplane?
“Bugs can get anywhere” is his response, as if that settles all the mysteries of the universe.
I ponder my tiny traveling companion further as our plane takes off. I realize I’ve never before considered the engineering behind airplane windows. I knew there were two of them. The first is an outer glass one that seals us passengers in and keeps us from being sucked out of the plane at high altitudes like toothpaste from a tube in reverse.
The second appears to be made of plastic and functions, it seems, primarily to keep the first one from looking like this second one does: a repository for scratches, kids’ fingerprints, oily face smoosh marks from sleepers and elbow smudges from travelers whose arms don’t fit the confines of their arm rests.
Between these two transparent panes is a space of maybe a quarter inch that usually sandwiches only air, though sometimes I’ve seen condensation or tiny ice formations cling to the outer window. But never ants.
Why share this discovery of my little stowaway with you? Because it reflects an important point regarding meaningful travel.
In most cases, on a trip, you rarely encounter something completely unknown to you. Normally, what you find are variations on items you can see at home. What makes them unusual is that you find them out of context, or at least out of your context.
Airplane windows. Normal.
Ants inside airplane windows. Hmmm. Not normal.
When we discover something that unusual, we have a choice.
We can respond as the guy sitting next to me did and basically disregard the phenomenon. Or we can pay attention. Let it spark our curiosity. Pursue the questions that come to mind. Recognize – and give thanks for – the small wonder that has come our way.
Such moments help you to start looking around a bit more, wondering what other miniature surprises might just be lurking around the next corner…or inside the next window. Such discoveries remind you to stay open. After all, if an ant can get inside an airplane window, you never know what you might find.
So keep looking.
And most of all, to borrow from the Dos Equis tagline, “Stay curious, my friends.”