I start in the airport terminal, concourse D, gate 5. This is the official start of all conferences according to my travel documentation. It ends when the plane lands here again.
Actually, I think, if I look it up, I’ll find that the official policy is that my trip begins once the plane actually departs. In my case, the plane en route to Minneapolis is still on its way back from Minneapolis, and so I’ll be leaving an hour and a half later than planned. This is a problem for me in little ways, such as the fact that I’m sitting in gate D5 typing on a keyboard, waiting for a plane that isn’t here yet. In slightly more important ways, it affects me by determining when, and how much, I can eat. For travel expenses, I’m granted certain amounts for meals each day, depending on the time of day that my plane actually leaves.
In an airport there are the people who check your baggage, the people who take your ticket, the people who scan your bags. Outside there are people in orange vests who hoist bags onto moving belts that, I hope, delivers my clothes, extra coat, and toothpaste into the belly of the craft. Then, there are the rest of us. The woman with the knee high leather boots that still can’t contain her nervous foot shake. There’s the man who squeezes himself between the arm rests separating the individual people, sorting them into bins. A woman stares up at the airport monitor while she talks into a phone with a bright green case. And I sit here and type.
As I was leaving the house this morning, Karyn asked me “which conference is this again?” and I reminded her, both of the initials that define all organizations and their conferences, and the meaning. “Science” and “Teacher” and “Education” all got tied together, and for some reason she reflected that, with those initials and their meaning, this must be important.
Actually, first she lovingly mocked me and the redundancy of any meeting I attend. It’s all about “Science” and/or “Teacher” and/or “Education.” That’s all left me to reflect on the very nature of these things. The ideas are all important, but I feel like the meeting itself, like the standard boarding of the airplane, is all anticipatable. It seems like my astronomy friends can anticipate some grand new finding with each new meeting they attend: a new exoplanet, a new calculation, or a new mechanism. (And they have such fantastic pictures.) In education, the results are more subdued, less certain, and ridiculously impossible to replicate. This could all mean that education researchers are more depressing and less interesting people. It could also mean that education is harder. Or both.