This was not one of those ideas I abstractly mentioned in my earlier post today, but one that serendipitously presented itself to me through the course of my normal day. I received a Myspace message a friend, quite out of the blue. It was this question:
Hey Andy, question. If I were to make my own travel map from Travbuddy.com and I once had an 8hr. lay-over in the Frankfurt airport, does that mean I’ve been to Germany? Just curious what the rules were. I’ve had a few long lay-overs.
A philosophical question on the order of “If a tree falls in the woods…” and “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The fundamental–and possibly metaphysical–question then is what constitutes BEING IN? Certainly no one would claim to have BEEN IN a region that they merely flew over. I don’t claim to have BEEN IN Nebraska because I briefly occupied a portion of its airspace. But what if I had landed in Omaha only to remain in the airport and leave again in a few hours time? Clearly the airport is in Nebraska, therefore I have BEEN to Nebraska. Or have I? Did I see anything that is Nebraska? Did I experience what Nebraska has to offer? Not really, I just saw the inside of the airport, which is not so much different than any other airport. So we’re left with the following proof: I have traveled to the airport that resides in Omaha, Nebraska, but having only BEEN inside the airport for a few hours and had not the opportunity to experience that which makes Nebraska Nebraska, at least in any significant way, only seeing, smelling, and hearing that which is common to all airports. By that logic I have not actually BEEN to Nebraska.
This would seem to resolve our query. Or does it? The original question did not involve Omaha, Nebraska, but Frankfurt, Germany. Certainly there are differences between airports in Nebraska, or the US at large, and those of Germany. To state the obvious, the language will be different, the foods will be different, the laws will be different. Not being an experienced international jet-setter, there may be other obvious differences that I am missing, but for our purposes the ones mentioned will suffice. In the Nebraska Theorem, we established that the airport experience does not qualify as BEING IN. But our logic made the assumption that all airports are more or less the same. Being an American, and assuming a predominantly American readership, my frame of reference is airports in America. But what of an American airport compared to a German airport? We’re already illustrated possible differences, so the question that must now be asked is are those differences, we could almost call them cultural differences, in fact enough to warrant the claim of experiencing what, in this case, makes Germany Germany and thereby affirming a state of BEING IN? To put it in terms of actions taken, if one were to eat an authentic German knockwurst and drink an authentic German beer, while being surrounded by authentic Germans speaking the authentic German language, all inside the airport terminal, does this qualify as a legitimate “German Experience”? The idea, while possibly flawed, has its merits.
Could we apply the above argument, we’ll call it the Frankfurt Postulate, to the Nebraska Theorem? Follow this example: On my one foray into international travel, excluding the several trips to Mexico, I flew to Ecuador. I, and the group I was with, flew out of San Francisco and made a connection in Houston, Texas, both on the way there and back, where we had layovers totalling several hours. George Bush International airport is not significantly distinguished from others around the US, and therefore the Nebraska Theorem would apply and I can not claim to have BEEN IN Texas. However, the regional accent of the locals is distinct and on the return trip I had a BBQ sandwich, something Texas is well known for. If the Frankfurt Postulate may be read in the affirmative, confirming a status of BEING IN Germany, could it also be applied affirmatively to what will now be referred to as the Texas Dictum? Or are the differences in custom of California and Texas not dissimilar enough to qualify? If the Frankfurt Postulate does not render a BEING IN status for Germany, then the question of its application to the Texas Dictum is moot.
Another question when traveling internationally that may be asked to establish BEING IN is whether or not a passport was stamped. Again, not being a frequent international traveler I don’t know if a passport is stamped in a country one is only making a connection in. For example, if I stop in Frankfurt, Germany for eight hours on my way to Kiev, Ukraine and never leave the terminal in Frankfurt, do the German authorities stamp my passport? If so, then I would say with great conviction this constitutes BEING IN.
There are other factors at work that may help or hinder the arguments made for BEING IN a particular state or country, time spent at the airport in question for example, but for the time being I believe we’ve covered enough. In the meantime, I need your input. Has my friend BEEN IN Germany? Have I BEEN IN Texas? Are there other factors that need addressing? This is a question that has puzzled travelers since the advent of commercial flight and all who comment will be doing there part to solve one of life’s most baffling quandaries. And I need to know if I should cross Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and Colorado off my list of states visited.