I’m sitting here in the airport after spending a weekend in Michigan.
I’m waiting at gate A7 waiting for the nice lady at the desk to call for my group to board. My family is sitting across from me. My brother is trying to do his assigned reading while my parents look up things on their iPads. And I’m here, writing.
They say airports are the best place to people-watch. So here I am, people-watching. Well, people-watching and writing.
I like to think about all the stories behind the people around me. Where are they going? What led them to be here at this time? Are they going home, or on a nice vacation? Or a business trip? Sometimes I forget that last one.
Mostly, I just naively assume that everyone around me is in a similar situation to mine. I think that they, too, are heading home after a couple days away. They also eagerly await the descent down the walkway to the plane, putting their bags in the overhead bins, smiling at the flight attendants and watching the safety video.
But I know that I uost not assume. So maybe I’ll just guess. Guess the background stories, guess the eventual destinations, and guess the life stages.
To my right I see a man and a woman sitting at a white table with swivel chairs. They look to be around retirement age, but nowadays one can never know. The woman is bundled up with a black jacket and a purple and green plaid scarf. She’s reading. He’s looking at his phone.
I wonder where they will be in the next five hours. What will they be doing? They probably don’t notice me, sitting over here. But I notice them. Not in a creepy way or anything, but in a wondering way. For this moment in time, we are in a similar location, in a similar mindset, perhaps. This somehow links us.
A young man just walked by, pushing an empty wheelchair. He was wearing a uniform so I presume that he works here. He looked around, searching for someone, then quickly walked away, unsuccessful. I wonder what it might be like to work in an airport - a big, vast space where people are always going and coming, never staying. I would find that hard.
There is a girl on her phone, laughing a little ways ahead. Her hair is pulled back, one leg against the wall. She looks to be just a little older than me. I wonder whom she’s calling. Not in a creepy way; again, I just wonder.
She’s waiting in this same area as me, which means that we’ll probably be on the same flight. We’ll be transported together to another area, another city, and another time zone. Together we’ll listen to the announcements indicating new absences of the fasten-seat-belt sign. We’ll both monitor the availability of the lavatories and get our boarding passes scanned at the same station.
Every day we pass by people in the streets, wait beside strangers at Starbucks, and read those same articles in the newspapers. Somehow we’re all linked.
Some may not agree, and some may think this a crazy ordeal, but I kind of like to think of our world like this now and again. It makes everything seem less scary and far away. It helps me somehow gain perspective.
It’s boarding time.
As we take off, the evening has just begun to settle in. In a few hours I’ll be in sweet old San Francisco. It’s amazing, really, how we’re able to do this; flying, I mean. In history we’ve learned about how those migrating west had to endure weeks and months on the Overland Trails in search of a new life. Here we can be on the other side of the world in a jiffy. Miraculous.
My brother gave up the window seat so I could look out at the cities below. I can see the headlights of cars on the freeway going somewhere, anywhere. I wonder if they see me or this plane I’m on. I wonder what they’re thinking.
It really is a small world (as cliché as that phrase is). I don’t know where this plane will head after its done taking me home. I can only hope that it will lead many others to vacations, destinations, memories and all sorts of unforgettable experiences safely, as it has done for me.
I wonder a lot, and when I start to think that strange, I have to catch myself and remember that other people wonder too. Everyone wonders. That’s the beauty of it.
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