An ode to airports

You don’t see enough people crying in airports anymore. It’s a strange observation, I’ll admit. But where are all the emotional goodbyes? Having spent a large part of last summer arriving at, killing time in and eventually leaving multiple airports, I noticed a distinct lack of teary farewells. In fact, it was observing one women’s red, puffy eyes at the gate before a flight that made me realise how uncommon this sight actually is.

I guess I have a tendency to romanticise the whole airport experience. I’m a cryer — there, I said it — and have spent countless trips to the airport holding back tears and then unashamedly balling when I’ve had to say goodbye to whoever’s come to see me off or to those who are leaving me. It’s fine, really. That’s my normal. It’s only occurring to me now that perhaps sniffling away through security, the gate and even on board the plane isn’t that normal. Not after the age of five, anyway.

But despite this melancholy habit, I actually love airports. Seriously, I love everything about them. There’s just a feeling of excitement I get when thinking about all the different people coming and going, wondering where they’re headed … and I get to be part of that club. I’m going somewhere too! You never know who you’ll end up sitting next to, or where they’re from. It feels like an adventure in itself. Yes, I am that sad.

As far as I’m concerned, as soon as I step into the airport, I’ve basically left the country. Sure, I’m at Pearson International and yes, there’s a Tim Horton’s and a Swiss Chalet, but it’s not really Canada anymore. It’s a stepping stone to somewhere else — somewhere no doubt more exciting and exotic and new!

Also, you just can’t beat the people-watching at an airport. Nowhere else will you find such a fascinatingly random assortment of people. Figuring out who’s with whom is one fun game. Eavesdropping on an awkward hushed argument is another. Spotting the best in air-travel fashion, and the worst. The impossibly impractical high heels; the stubbies and jandals combo (that’s tiny shorts and flip flops for non-NZers); the first-time backpackers overloaded with accessories; the ladies with handbag dogs. It’s all there for your viewing pleasure.

Uh-oh, where did all the people go?

And let’s be honest, a common theme at airports is having a lot of time on your hands. I consider people-watching an essential time waster, to get me that much closer to the happy noise of hearing my row being called for boarding. But I realise that not everyone has a joyful airport experience. For some, there’s less sitting-around-time and more rushing-madly-time. At Munich airport, while spying on an incredibly well-dressed woman around my age, decked out in crisp white shirt, tennis bracelet, jeans, heels, perfect manicure and with a Louis Vuitton bag on her lap (will I look like that when I grow up?), my attention was distracted by the arrival of a woman running up to a nearby gate, dragging her two small children and husband behind her.

The gate, unfortunately, was closed — not to mention deserted. Understandably, she kind of lost it. Her family stood around awkwardly as she ranted and raved, exasperatedly yelling, “How are we going to get home now?” and generally looking around helplessly. It was pretty painful to watch and a situation we’ve all no doubt feared. But as she grabbed her kids’ hands and stomped off in the opposite direction,  I laughed when I heard her final remark, which pretty much explained everything. “Fucking McDonald’s.”

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7 Responses to An ode to airports

  1. Pete says:

    Great post! I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets terribly excited at airports, even when they’re the same airports that I’ve been to a million times. There’s something exotic about the mundanity of airports that excites me. All these people from all over the world, all complaining about the lack of good food options or a delayed flight, all with entirely different stories (and often cultures). I don’t know. I’m rambling. But airports and people watching excites me. I’ll stop now 😉

  2. The last line of this post had me laughing – hilarious and so unexpected. And yet…exactly how I feel about that place. Great post.

    • I know, I couldn’t help but look around when she said that, to see if anyone else was laughing quietly, too. If they were, they hid it well – which was probably a good thing. Somehow, I don’t think she would have seen the humour in it! Thanks for commenting.

  3. fotoeins says:

    Great article!

    Here in the northern-half of Chile where air travel is still a bit of a luxury (compared to buses), there are frequently tearful departures and arrivals at La Serena’s airport. At Santiago international airport, you’re more than likely to see the fair share of tears, too.

    p.s. For your top-banner photo (re. train station), was that taken in Hannover or Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe?

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