Airport Friends

airportI spent three hours with a thousand of my good friends at the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport. Although they don’t know me; I am among, between and bumping into them for three hours. The layover seems like an eternity when you know what the end time is.

What does one do for three hours? Alcohol sounds like a good idea at 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon.   (Technically you’re still on vacation until you re-enter your home.) I order a Manhattan and the waiter tells me how his grandparents enjoyed them which made me think twice about my age and place in life.   Seated across from me is a couple from Florida returning from a Packer game in Wisconsin. Since I’m from Wisconsin I could not let the moment pass by. Everything about her attire is “Packer” mania from two sets of Packer earrings, pajama Packer pants (it was not a fancy airport restaurant), a Packer jersey and a Packer bag. “Oh, you follow the Packers?” I astutely ask them. (I’m good at stuff like that.) They proceed to tell me more details than I care to know or understand but I guess the Packers won so their Green Bay trip was worthwhile. The straight-haired lady in front of me never smiled or acknowledged my existence. (I find that to be a common airport behavior. If you look bored and self-involved then everyone will think that you’re above the fray, must travel a lot and are important.)

I refuse to take on that behavior because I have three hours to spend here and I’d like to use it to absorb what is surrounding me in this maze of breathing humans with nothing in common except for the “wait”. (And yet we have everything in common because we are all human and are “waiting” for the next plane.) Passing by my table is a father carrying a child on his shoulders until he realizes that the kid may fall and the child will sue the airport so the dad places him back into the stroller. There is a tattoo lady with more scripture passages on her arm than I’ve memorized, next to her is serious-business-lady-with- cellphone and Air Mac acting like she’s solving the world’s problems, or so she thinks. There are a lot of those types in the airport with their cellphones at the ready; I guess you never know when that important call will arrive. When they are talking, it sounds very important but soon I hear it’s only about life’s tidbits and stuff they’re missing out on at home. I see a beautiful woman with a ring in her nose. (I guess she believed whoever told her that she was not attractive. How sad.) There are military guys roaming around in their camouflage outfits and I wonder what war they’re off to.

Even the smoking room (which I’m glad this airport still maintains) contains aloof and “looking-right-through-you” people. A woman is gabbing on her cellphone while holding an unlit cigarette. I light it for her and you’d think I gave her a $20.00 bill. She laughs showing me the lighter in her hand but thanks me nonetheless and proceeds to tell her friend about the spontaneous light.

I’ve found in my travels that these distant-posturing people who seem to assume this behavior while in large numbers of like people is easily broken with a quick smile, a sincere “good afternoon,” or a comment about the weather either where they’ve been or going to. An ice breaker also works with a comment about shoes or jacket. “Hey, that’s a cool jacket,” I’ll say. People then seem to warm up. At first they think you’re a robber or crook but slowly realize that you’re just another guy who needs to wait three non-flying hours in a crowded airport on a Monday afternoon.

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About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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