The Arrivals Gate…

At 6 weeks old, I was gearing up for my very first airplane ride in which I would wail unceasingly from take off to a Caribbean landing because I felt that my ears were going to self-implode into tiny bits. I didn’t quite understand the principles of cabin pressure. But you know, who really ever does? Shortly thereafter, the airline my mom worked for issued a memo that non-revenue passengers traveling with children under six years of age, must sit in coach and not first or business classes. So I may be the reason for that. This is my formal apology to the world.

From BNA to DFW to SFO to LAX to ORD to MIA to JFK, growing up, getting out of bed in one city and laying my head on the pillow to sleep in another city was not an uncommon occurrence.

Sometimes we’d catch a Miami sunset while eating dinner at the MIA Hotel atop the Miami airport… sometimes we’d sleep on the floor of Chicago O’Hare because…well, we all know how crazy Chicago weather and delays are. In our usual manner of flying stand-by, I remember one trip in which we were trying to make a flight to Cancun but ended up in San Juan because there were absolutely no open seats to Mexico. On another trip, torrential downpours and subsequent flashing flooding, left my mother and I stranded at JFK in New York City. No planes were going up and none were coming down. After 14 hours of trying to find a seat on any flight to any northeastern city, she and I decided to rent a car and drive 22 hours to our destination of Prince Edward Island, Canada. We’ve been split up, delayed, re-routed, separated from our bags, bumped off flights, and everything else that could possibly occur in the airline industry. I can recount more stories about awkward TSA pat-downs than you probably care to hear.

You see, I am a proud product of an airline family. My beautiful mother was employed for 25 years in the airline industry and so the ins and outs of air travel became second nature to our family. It is as much a part of me as music or writing or biology is. Travel speaks to my soul like nothing else can. Airports are a second home. They offer a comfort that I can’t really even quantify with due justice.

Somewhere in those years of planes, trains, and automobiles, I fell in love with all things travel. Can you identify? What is it about airports that suck us in?

Maybe it’s that airports are so similar to life. Exciting, unpredictable, subject to change, stressful, uncomfortable, diverse, confusing, able to produce an immense amount of joy

An airport is a microcosm of society… the diverse ethnicities, ages, occupations, socio- economic statuses present… and yet, unlike society, passengers have one goal. To navigate safely to their destinations.

And we are all equal on this day… on this trip.

We are all subjected to getting verbally nabbed by TSA agents and randomly selected for pat-downs and full body xray machines. We all forget about the liquid rule and end up having to throw away perfectly good hair spray. We are all delayed together. All stuck like cattle in security’s winding line. We all must endure the mile long concourse walk at various airports (for the love, somebody has got to do something about Charlotte’s concourses). On a flight at 35,000 feet… everyone is equal… regardless of socioeconomic status or race, our fates on the flight are the same. Turbulence together. Together we choke down in flight meals that have all the consistency of plastic. Two by two foot bathrooms together. Our souls draw us somewhere else, but in this space and time, we are all doing life together. Lives on hold, in limbo, together.

At an airport, journeys converge. So many folks are leaving, departing for another city or country. Departing for new beginnings. Departing for humanitarian aid trips. Departing for job interviews. Departing for weddings or funerals. Departing for much needed and long awaited vacations. Departing this season of life.

And then, conversely, many are arriving. Arriving to fall into the arms of loved ones. Reunited parents. Reunited lifelong friends. Reunited siblings. Reunited military families. Reunited lovers. Beginning a new season. All at the arrivals gate.

Somewhere in the cacophony of airplanes taking off, bags coming off the belt, PA announcements of final boarding calls, the hum of coffee makers, the goodbyes of loved ones, the grinding metal of jet bridges retracting, and monorail doors closing… I hear a symphony.

Airports draw me in, promising to take me somewhere beautiful, and give me equality along the way. I guess that about all I can ask for in life… and it is more than enough.

If you are reading this, you are going to need to tell me a travel story. Tell me anything… funny, hectic, something memorable that popped into your head as you read this post! Ready, set, go!


14 thoughts on “The Arrivals Gate…

  1. i love how you can be talking about airplanes and have a beautiful message attached to it 😉 well my story is when we were at LAX me and my sister were running late to our plane we made it through security rushed to the gate, waited for our number to get called to start lining up and sat down, realized i forgot my phone in those stupid little bins at security. We had 10 min till they were closing the doors, so I ran all the way to security (our gate was all the way at the end of the concourse) found my phone thank God!! ran all the way back to the gate, sat down. Gasping for air, when a lovely announcement came on stating that there was going to be a twenty minute delay because they are waiting for the pilots to arrive. I guess all i can say is at least I got my exercise for the day 😉 love you Kate!!!

  2. Haha!! This brings back so many memories of wonderful trips and travel gone awry!! Y'all were great little travelers! I remember being very impressed when we spent all day in Chicago coming home from Maui and kept getting bumped on flights to Nashville…thought we'd never get home!…but y'all were troopers! I also remember that PEI trip…going through engine deep water in the flash flooded streets of New York City!!…and needing toothpicks to hold my eyes open after the 22 hrs of driving!!…only to arrive at the bridge going over to Prince Edward & coming over the horizon to a beautiful rainbow over the island…DEFINITELY a GOD thing!! We truly were blessed to have had the privilege of travel to so many different destinations as a family. So, American Airlines, thanks for the great years of flight benefits…here's hoping you all settle things soon & get back to the business of putting the customer first and making loyal and happy employees!!This blog is great, Kate! So very true that we all have a shared experience w/ flight travel. That's what I always tried to tell people that wanted to argue about their seat assignments! …seat 27E will get there at the same time that 12D does!! Just one more thing…what is the sweetest sound to a non-rev passenger?…Remember, Kate?…yep! It's the sound of those boarding passes coming out of the printer!!!

  3. You describe it all so perfectly! Airports were always intimidating for me when i was young because of the organized chaos that they are. But now, I love that adrenaline of knowing that you and everyone else there is on their own little adventure. Everyone has a story, and airports are a place where stories intersect on a massive scale. It's so exciting!

  4. This is a GREAT story! Thanks for sharing it… I've been caught in between the time crunch between security and the gate door closing. Aren't gates always conveniently located furthest distance away possible in the time of need?! 🙂 Thanks for reading… love your comment here.

  5. I DO remember the sweetest airport sound for a non-rev passenger! Haha! Thanks for bringing up these other memories and for creating them with your mad non-rev skills!

  6. This is my first time commenting on literally anything online so let's hope it works. I don't really have any flight travel stories because, as you know, airplanes terrify me. The thought of hurtling through the air at high speeds miles above the earth is not attractive to me. Because of this, I really don't have any experience with airports either. However, hearing other people's positive and fun stories concerning flight travel has made me a little less apprehensive about the whole affair. Maybe someday I will work up the courage to actually book a flight somewhere!

  7. Bryan! Congratulations, it worked! Yes! And when you put it into perspective, planes are a little frightening in that regard. Hopefully someday soon you'll be able to experience the adrenaline rush of an airport and you'll fall in love, I am sure!

  8. Yes, oh the delays of air travel! I was once delayed in Chicago, which delayed me in Brussels, Belgium, and thus delayed me getting to Africa; I arrived two days late!

  9. In Minneapolis (while getting ready to head to Montana, I also think Liz and Casey were with me on this flight), Continential announced that there is a flight delay due to mechanical problems with the door. Boy, I felt safe. Several times while landing in Houston, I felt like I would crash into the city due to turbulence. The plane would shake and shake on those times.I waited in the Hong Kong airport twice and felt intimidated there.

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