Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Anywhere But Here

Serial stowaway, sixty-three-year-old Marilyn Hartman, was caught at O’Hare Airport trying to board a flight without a ticket. While some people are afraid of flying, Marilyn seems to be obsessed with the idea. She’s been arrested several times at airports for trying to board without a ticket.

Oddly enough, Ms. Hartman had a valid ticket the day before her arrest, but caused such a disturbance that she was escorted off the plane. I’m beginning to think she wants to be wherever she isn’t, including on a plane. She’s been arrested on the west coast, Phoenix, and more recently in Chicago—at both O-Hare and Midway. She once remarked to reporters that airports were safer than living on the streets.
Why does she keep trying to stowaway on airplanes when it leads to jail time? She said, “Even smart people do stupid things.” Well, that statement is entirely true, but I believe she can’t help herself because she wants to be somewhere besides “here,” wherever here may be.

Maybe all of us have a little of this compulsion to be somewhere else. Who hasn’t spent a tough day at the job and had a strong urge to be at a favorite vacation spot instead? This lady has just carried it to an entirely different level.

When we’re young, we long to grow up. Once we are grownups, we want the carefree days of our youth. Time and space can be our friend or our enemy.

People with Alzheimer’s often want to be in a different place. They pace. They want to go home, even though they are at home. They want to be someplace else. Anywhere but where they are.

Wandering is a common problem with Alzheimer’s. It’s dangerous for the person and worrisome for the family. Think about how confusing and strange their world is, and it’s easier to understand why they want to find what they’ve lost. Their shattered memory may tell them they live in a certain house, even though they once knew that it had been sold or torn down.

I knew a man with Alzheimer’s who wandered off frequently and walked across town to the house where once he had lived with his first wife. She still lived there, and when he showed up, she phoned his current wife to come and get him. She would  offer him coffee, or breakfast, while they waited.

When life gets tough, we often want to place distance between where we actually are and where we theoretically could be. It’s fight or flight. While most of us fight, a few of us flee.

Maybe Ms. Hartman really is smart and finds jail to be safer than the streets. It probably doesn’t hurt to have three guaranteed meals a day. I believe she knows her chances of boarding without a “ticket to ride” are slim. I would say slim to none, but she managed to fly from San Jose to Los Angeles without a ticket.

Some people try to run away from their problems, but could Ms. Hartman be trying to run away from herself? When she is released from jail, we’ll be hearing about her again. And again. A serial stowaway headed for nowhere, or anywhere but where she is.

Copyright © July 2015 by L.S. Fisher

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