An ode to airports is another example of the leisure, freedom, and joy that should be taken advantage of in every moment of life.
(Hint: You can turn anything into this if you look hard enough.)
Right now I am sitting at gate B23 in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
In the past, I usually connected from LBK to DFW.
But my latest job has business out west – and I find myself connecting thru PHX more than I ever anticipated.
This layover is like any other, full of all the sights and smells I have come to know and love.
The aroma of coffee shops serving up baked goods and caffeine, the clinking of glasses in the restaurant behind me, and watching the next plane leave the gate.
I find the people the most interesting though.
There are the young couples who look like they have never flown before. Often one is intent on telling the other how things work. This morning I saw a husband telling his wife how to hold her hands while walking thru the x-ray machine. She was so nervous about the whole thing, she looked like she hung on his every word.
Then there are disheveled couples with four or five kids. I wonder how they can afford to casually buy seven plane tickets. But then I see the wife carrying a Louis Vitton and they miraculously end up being on my flight and sitting in first class.
There are serious businessmen (and women). They wear suits or sport coats and are always walking briskly while talking on their AirPods. They grab cashews and a bottle of water from the end kiosks and walk off again. I have never seen one of them in a restaurant slowly eating a dessert and enjoying the moment. Maybe they think they will live forever. Or maybe they are too busy to care.
Of course, there are more casual business travelers too – like me. We have responsibilities to keep and places to be, but our travel days are often less formal. At least we look and act less self-important about it all.
I just heard over the speaker:
Kennedy who got in from your bachelorette party last night, please rejoin your party at Gate B12. Kennedy who got in from your bachelorette party last night, please rejoin your party at Gate B12.
I would love to hear the story behind all that!
You often see teams in airports too. They are always wearing the same sweatsuits with matching logos. A few weeks ago I saw a high school or club basketball team. And today I saw a group from “Baraca Academy,” a school of soccer training is what Google tells me.
The couples that look the same always make me grin. Same windpants and t-shirt. They have the same sandwich order. And they sport the same backpacks. Nearly the same haircut and BMI too.
On arrival, airport travelers are sometimes even treated to tearful goodbyes. It might be the end of summer love, the beginning of trying things long-distance, or soldiers leaving for war. I enjoy the humanity of it. Just messy people making decisions and having all these emotions in the same way that the generations before them did too.
If work you must while in the airport, finish it first thing and set it behind you.
The rest of your time should be spent doing what airports are meant for.
- People watching – I’m judgey, but curious about everyone
- Overeating beside strangers in silence – occasionally exchanging knowing glances
- Shopping without distraction – book browsing and meandering past things that should not be impulse buys
- Walking indoors – I mean, I probably walked two miles today
- Reading books – for there is little other time you will have fewer interruptions
- Writing – see above
My advice for what to do in an airport is everything I have just said.
Go for a good long walk. Read a book. Overeat a little. Enjoy the desert you would never order at home. People watch. Relax. Make the time about something you enjoy.
Airports are for loafers.
I have fond memories of all of these things in airports from Paris to Frankfurt to Saudi Arabia to Atlanta to San Antonio.
So that’s my ode to airports.
For airports are a magical space where time can pause if you let it…
…It’s a place where you can find a moment to yourself before your next connection starts boarding and you are shoved back into reality with the simple touching down of a plane.