Traveling gives me a sort of stimulation I can’t find elsewhere. I love the way people dress in airports—in business suits and sundresses, in hoodies and pencil skirts. Some are traveling for work, others for pleasure. You’ll never see these people again but for a moment you share a brief window of their existence. You might be in Paris, New York, Memphis, or Detroit but the location doesn’t really matter because the airports nearly all look the same. It’s up to the travelers to make the human connection if they so desire.
I like the surge of excitement that flows through me when I catch someone’s eye. There’s that moment of wonder. Who are they? Where are they going? What’s in their luggage? How many stamps have they collected on their passport? I check the hand. No wedding ring. I scan their face for an indication of age. Divorced? Single? Is their trip for fun, work, or something more complicated like finalizing a divorce or attending their mother’s funeral?
When I was 18 I was sitting alone in an airport waiting for my flight to Tucson. I was moving there, I thought. I kept stealing glances with a handsome traveler. I stood up to board my flight. He came up to me and said, “You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen,” then walked away. I never saw him again but I couldn’t get the experience out of my mind.
Last week I flew to Houston and due to layovers and exchanging a later flight for a $300 travel voucher I ended up visiting four airports in one day. At the bar I met a businessman named Luke. We bonded over dry martinis and similar music tastes. He was wearing an expensive business suit and Nike dunks. “I usually never talk to anyone when I travel but this—this is exciting,” he said as he programmed my number into his iPhone. We said farewell as I left to find my gate. Every time I travel I long for something similar.
On the plane I got to thinking. I thought about the other travelers I talked to in the 24 hours I was traveling from the hotel to the many airport bars I sat in. I thought about the street performer from San Francisco who told me my horoscope. I thought about the woman who asked me to pray with her before her flight. I thought about the grad student on the way home to see her parents, the 60 year old female artist who told me at 28 I was in the prime of my life, and about the engaged couple that was headed to Mexico City on a backpacking trip before eloping.
The experience of meeting strangers and waiting together to head to unknown departures creates a feeling I long for outside of the airport. If only I could find that human connection beyond the glass windows overlooking the incoming flights.