airports are people too

maybe it’s just the jet-lag talking, but there’s something beautiful about airports. they have a way of capturing every part of the human experience and at the same time testing our emotional boundaries (and physical boundaries when we’re in full sprint or getting patted down).here’s what i mean: you’re guaranteed to find tears at every airport. just this morning at LHR a Korean woman right near me was on the verge of a breakdown in security because she was about to miss her flight (i think she made it, thanks to the good airport people, but we were all holding our breaths). new york city airports like JFK and LGA always seem to have their share of love stories, with tearful goodbyes and extended hollywood embraces at the security gates. at EWR last year there were all sorts of hysterics as an Italian couple pleaded with the gate to be seated next to their children. and another woman desperate to get home to her family after her previous flight was cancelled.up in the air we all try to keep our emotional issues in check, but sometimes it’s unavoidable: food allergies / preferences that the flight attendants repeat back at the top of their lungs, illnesses, fears of flying, anxiety, missed connections. earlier this year i found myself within 5 feet of someone vomiting on two different consecutive flights within a month. highly embarrassing for the vomiter and distressing for everyone else.when we land it all starts again — but mostly tears of joy this time. the family vacationers and cruise-shippers laugh it up by clapping upon touchdown (because the pilot magically figured out how to land the plane instead of crashing it). the best airports, though, have overflowing crowds waiting for you outside baggage claim, where we’re all made to feel like celebrities passing through the arrivals gauntlet. so many children with expectant faces, mothers taking pictures, significant others with their arms open…a few months ago, JP and I flew to BTV on a flight with a young soldier returning from Iraq. the welcome party was almost 30-strong, with someone on the tarmac taking pictures as he walked off the plane in uniform. very intense seeing the relief of all these people who had spent maybe a year praying for this guy —friend, son, cousin—to just not get killed. baggage claim is a whole new bucket of drama though. that initial sense of panic over not seeing your bag show up, even though it usually does despite the odds. then all the disoriented people showing up in a city for the first time with no idea how to use the money or speak the language. this evening in IAD a muslim man unrolled a tiny rug next to a pole by carrousel 2 in order to do his late afternoon prayers. in the 60 seconds that he spent preparing his thoughts before kneeling down, at least two different travelers trampled his mat, unaware of what he was doing there and why. very sad.airports are great for all of this live theater and extremes that we get to witness and sometimes contribute to. hospitals can play this emotional game too, but no one ever really wants to be in a hospital.

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3 thoughts on “airports are people too

  1. And whats the deal with the peanuts! how did peanuts become the universal snack of the skies. In India do they hand out samosas? And whats the deal with the trays – could they get any smaller?

  2. Somebody has been watching Love Actually lately…"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends."But you haven’t been to Heathrow lately…have you?

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