Jen Gienapp: Airports

Monday, August 7, 2017 - by Jen Gienapp

I love people watching, and while my youngest son calls it “stalking”, I resist that notion and find it so fascinating. There’s no better place to do it than at an airport.

I’ve spent hours over the years watching people at the departure islands as well as the arrivals. I can’t figure out which one I love more.

Yesterday, I watched a man and a little girl drop off some grandparents. There were many tears shed mostly by the little girl, and heartfelt hugs just kept going. It struck me so much that I had to approach the grandparents to tell them it affected me, because the love was so obvious. Then another bystander chimed in, “me, too!”

There’s something so exciting about seeing someone running to a family member or friend for a great hug, as they arrive. Have they not seen each other in weeks, months or years? I wonder about their stories.

On the other hand, there’s something so sad about seeing a young couple hugging and kissing with their goodbyes. Is she or he headed for a deployment or a big move to another city? What is their story?

Both arrivals and departures make me tear up.

There’s the family unloading all of their stuff out of a cab, ready for a big trip and full of excitement, and then the other family haling a cab after a long flight, trying to maneuver a still-sleeping one-year old in his car seat into the car without waking him up.

I’m intrigued by the stories of the businessmen/women I see who are so full of purpose, and the pilots/flight attendants who either look ready for their flights or are exhausted from one they just performed.

Then there are the curbside employees. I’ve found them to be the most interesting to talk to. There’s the guy who walks up and down, making sure people aren’t parking too long, and there’s the cop bicycling back and forth, always paying attention to the guy walking, in case he needs to intervene. And then there are the guys who just keep loading heavy bags and strollers and who knows what else at the curbside check-in, and the bags magically disappear down a belt and elevator, headed for a plane.

There are also surprises that happen at airports. It might be a proposal, or just simply some siblings reuniting, but they’re always fun to see. 

I really love airports, and I think they might be the best place to observe human nature at its best.


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