A few things make me think, “Fuck: I’m an adult.” These aren’t the obvious things – paying rent, staying up late, not having someone escort me to the bathroom, etc. – but the more charmingly mundane, things like driving and calling someone on the phone.
These are the things that we play-act as children, that made me go “I can’t wait to do that.” when I saw them happen. Much of this has to do with the autonomy of getting around because getting yourself from point A to point B without any supervision is a very baseline accomplishment. It’s obvious, it’s quite literally pedestrian, but I’m still impressed that I can navigate big cities by myself, the little kid in me absolutely slack jawed and impressed that one can take the bus or bike without supervision.
Planes factor into this in a really incredible way. Flying will never not be a luxury for the majority of people (Myself included.) which is why any time I have to interact with an airport I feel like I hacked into life to unlock some strange stage where I get to battle security lines and eat shitty food and wait in a line to sit in a tube that is thrown to the sky, from one end of the country to another: flying is adult as fuck, especially when you do it alone.
But flying itself isn’t what makes it so adult: it’s the ritual before you get on the plane, the sitting down at an airport bar and having a glass of wine by yourself. Is there anything more adult than this? Sure, sexual interactions: of course that is most adult. But such bedroom interactions aren’t what most young kids are preoccupied with as it relates to playacting adultness. Being able to be by yourself, in an airport – a noted den of strangers – is very much an accomplishment. Multiply this by a setting like a restaurant and you’ve unlocked another tier. Then add in alcohol? You are doing something unprecedented to your childhood mind.
It’s more than that though: it’s a type of adultness that resonates out. Unless you are flying in pajama bottoms, you most likely will look like a polished adult who could be confused for a business traveller. How fucking posh is that? I barely can do a business but to be considered as a person who has meetings and who has to take a call rubs my adult parts so hard.
Seeing these people – and being these people – represent a lot of things. There’s the element of the lonely traveler, the overworked bee, the independent streaker, the intellectually curious: drinking alone at an airport bar with an accessory – a book, a magazine, a laptop, a phone – lets all around you forecast and investigate who you are. It also allows you to be whoever you want to be: leaning into the book might make you a temporary literati while holding up your phone might make you a tech insider. This can backfire as reading something like A Dog’s Purpose or scrolling through Instagram idly for hours might appear more collegiate than professional. Alas: still adult, albeit younger.
Drinking alone, in public, always has a cache. Sometimes sad, sure, but mostly a “Look what I can do.” feeling akin to a balancing a book on the head. That’s what drinking alone, in public, is like. Place that setting in an airport? You feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy, adult and able, like you had been building your life for moments like this, where you could be seen as capable and functional in the open, without judgement and with nary a question. Isn’t that what adulthood is about? Being seen doing something and not being questioned about it? I like to think so. It’s a feeling that doesn’t get old either.