Strangers In An Airport

Christmas “flying season” is ending once again. Airports are among the most remarkable crossroads of our times, aren’t they? In them, regularly we encounters strangers transiting…. to wherever.

Yet rarely do we more than brush shoulders with most of them. Indeed mostly we say little to each other. Usually we just pass each other by wordlessly.


There are exceptions, of course. Waiting recently at JFK for a flight to London, an older British woman sat next to us at the gate. The flight was full and seating area was mobbed. Watching stand-by passengers at the desk obtaining seats on the flight, the woman decided to tell us about a chaotic experience she had had flying from Moscow. She made a few lighthearted comments comparing that to what we were seeing, asked our final destination, shared hers, pointed to her husband – who was reading and sitting several seats away – and that was pretty much that.

Before our flight from Dublin the other day, near us two young boys and a little girl were kicking around a small ball, laughing and running around harmlessly in the departure area between the gates. As everyone readied to board, the little girl rejoined her mother behind us. As the line of passengers moved slowly forward, the girl asked her mother for permission quickly to rush over to say goodbye to the two boys: the boys were with families flying from the opposite gate.

We tend not to think much about that sort of thing…. until we do. I suppose I am one of those “romantics” who remains amazed when considering the flight departures and arrivals screens. So many today seem to take global air travel almost for granted. In contrast, for our “great-grandparents,” a train journey was often a huge deal.