I won’t even begin to pretend otherwise – I’m one of those weirdos who loves airports.
Sure, they can be crowded and stressful and hotter than the gates of Hell (looking at you, ATL) – but there’s something special about them that I just can’t quite put my finger on. I mean, think about it. Everyone around you – yes, even that business man in the pre-check lane who informed me that I was in the wrong lane (I wasn’t), and the little kid running rampant with no supervision – we’re all going somewhere. Or maybe we’re coming from somewhere. But we’re all moving, and I love that.
I’m actually writing this sitting at my gate in the Charlotte-Douglas airport, would you believe it? My flight boards in just under a half hour, and the seats around me are filling up with my fellow passengers. For some of us? PIT will be our final destination this evening – for others, just a quick stop on the way to theirs. Either way, we’re about to spend the next almost 2 hours together so hopefully none of them smell. (Only kind of kidding about that.)
This close to the holidays, it’s probably safe to say many of us are traveling for the same reason.
We’re going home.
One of my favorite things about flying alone, something I’ve been doing fairly regularly since 2013, is wondering who my seat mate will be. I’ve flown with some interesting characters at the very least, and I’ve loved hearing their stories… Getting a glimpse into the lives of total strangers who, for a few hours, become a friend. I’ve sat with a solider heading home for leave, a businessman who works with chicken farmers for Tyson, even the county district attorney of where I lived at the time.
One flight in particular, I remember sitting with a sweet, elderly lady who told me about how she was flying to visit her niece and nephew. It was her first time on an airplane, and she had been so prepared – with her boarding pass and airport map printed and in hand. Our flight was delayed pretty significantly, and as she had no cell phone, I gladly lent her mine to call them to let them know. I think of her sometimes while I sit at my gate, and try to use it as a reminder to look up from my phone.
When I choose my flights, I prefer the window seat – hence, words from the window seat. I think most people vie for the window for optimal sleeping position, but that’s the aisle if you ask me. No, I choose the window because I love to watch the world pass by below. I lived in a flyover state for four years, after all.
After the stress of getting to the airport early and fighting security lines (shoutout to TSA pre-check for solving those issues for me), it is so damn easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and our own lives. It’s easy to get sassy with the TSA agent who has to run your bag twice, or with the barista at Starbucks who is struggling to keep up with the orders before the morning flights. But, when we take a few moments to sit back and zoom out to the big picture, we remember that they are only human too.
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.
There’s a lot of gloom and doom around, it’s easy to find. Traveling is stressful, and can get the best of us if we let it. So this holiday season, I encourage you to slow down. Take a look around. Strike up conversation with your seat mate, ask them where they are headed and wish them happy holidays.
The way I see it, we have 2 options. We can wallow in the gloom of the world, or we can seek the good.
Look for the not particularly dignified or newsworthy, because the headlines don’t tell the whole story.
Look for it at baggage claim, where people are reuniting after time apart. Look for it in the eyes of that TSA agent when you are patient with him, and with that barista when you thank her for making your drink. Look for it in your fellow passengers, and in the stories they may have to share.
Choose the window seat, and leave the window open. Take in the city lights and open fields.
Take it from me, the best words are inspired in the window seat.