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!