Thursday, August 10, 2006

Arrivals / Departures

Arrivals / Departures
Do you know of any better feeling than when you meet an old friend or loved one after a period of non-contact?

I picked up my step-father last night at _________ Airport. By mistake, I got there an hour earlier than I needed to be. I also arrived unprepared for that extra time as I usually bring a book or magazine to read- both of which I have plenty of. With 45 minutes to kill, I decided to participate in what my step-father says is one of his favorite things to do: people watch.

I had situated myself at the arrivals section of Terminal number Four- right between the domestic and international gates. Lots of people as you would imagine… coming from numerous departing points & time zones. I counted three saris, four languages and at least 115 black suitcases of various shapes and sizes. Why travelers buy black suitcases is beyond comprehension. They all look alike and are easily confused with someone else’s luggage. Next time you go to a luggage carousel, watch for the black luggage that the machine vomits out of its metal mouth. If you own a piece of this dark travel gear, count how many times other people pick it up only to throw it back like a 3rd prize trout- unworthy of the end of the day weigh in.

So as I sit there waiting for the minutes to drone by, I start to observe arriving passengers stream into my space a little at a time. The smiles that erupt on peoples faces are a sight to behold. Luggage is thrown around like the paperboy delivering the daily rag. Hugs, handshakes and kisses are doled out like its Christmas morning and you just got that new ________ you wanted. But it is the smiles that you are drawn back to.

Did you ever see the movie Batman? You know the one where Jack Nicholson plays the Joker. The smiles that people have at the arrivals gate are like his was in the movie- unmovable. For a second there, I had to stifle a laugh because I wondered if airline flight crews had started giving Botox injections during flights with durations over one hour.

I was happy. Going to the airport made me happy. It was like going to therapy except I did not have to talk and it only cost three bucks an hour for parking!

A simple fact dawned on me as I started to notice other people who were waiting: most of them already had that look of anticipation. It was a good look. As I tried to astral project myself out of my body, I could sense a feeling of electricity in the air. This might have been one of the happiest places I had ever been to.

There is of course, a downside to these little facts: Departures.

I saw a few of those as well. Three out of five of them were tear-filled. Hugs were clutch-like, notes & cards were passed and parting gifts given. I sat next to a set of grandparents and their granddaughter. The grandmother was happily chatting away with her departing relative while her husband kept to himself- shielding his thoughts they way men of that generation seem to be able to do. I did catch his eye for a moment, and I knew this was very painful… this departure of a granddaughter. I could feel in his eyes, that sadness of “What if I don’t live to see her again?” I understood it from the other end because I have left grandparents and not seem them again- except at a funeral.

But those faces! You just had to see those faces. My face.

Now as I wrap this up, I have to confess that I am sure this little bit of writing contains little original thought (and lots of marginal writing I might add). Travel writing is common enough now and this arrival / departure thing has had to have been written about somewhere (likely some smart ass New Yorker… Damn you for thinking of it before me!). But I have to tell you, if you are having a bad day… just need a boost… or think your life really sucks- pull three or four dollars out of your change can and spend thirty minutes at the arrivals / departures section of your local airport.

You won’t be sorry.

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