Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Airports and people

I’m sitting in the airport in Charlotte, NC right now. This is the 5th airport that I have been to the last two weeks. On Sunday I will have taken flights out from 7 different airports, with 3 different airlines. My head is spinning a little bit.

My first three airports, I was keeping track of 14 other people as we moved from gate to gate, plane to plane. We went through new terminals, old terminals and a terminal that at one time was a shelter for people misplaced after Katrina. Our destination was Mississippi and work and home again.

The next four airports I’m all on my own. No people to keep track of, just me and my backpack. It’s a heavy backpack. My destination is Massachusetts and the wedding of friend and home again.

It’s interesting to spend time in different airports. Each has their own unique flavor and feeling too them. They each have some of the same food choices, books, coffee as well as things that are authentic to their area. San Francisco has sourdough bread, New Orleans has beignets and Charlotte, as I have found out, has rocking chairs. Yep, white rocking chairs right in the food court area. It’s fascinating. I would have taken a picture, but they were all filled with people and I wasn’t going to bother them.

What each airport has in common is delays, frustrated people and a sense of anxiety. It’s the story of air travel that at some point you will be delayed. We experienced it on our last trip, I’ve seen it happen this morning and I’m sure I will experience it again (I’m flying out of Chicago O’Hare on the way home, almost guaranteed to have a delay). Delays tend to make people cranky. Really, really cranky. Just now a gentleman came to the gate I am sitting at and thought that his plane had left without him. He was mad. Cussing up a storm, getting aggravated with the gate agents and in general just being cranky. His attitude changed when he was told that his gate had been changed and his plane was still on the ground. He took off running to his gate, without so much as a Thank You to the agent who was helping him. Cranky.

I don't like running late, I'm not sure how I would react if my flight was cancelled...don't really want to find out either but I also appreciate getting to the place that I want to go in one piece. If that means that my flight has to be delayed, then by all means, delay it!

Last week on the way home we flew from New Orleans to Dallas. The Dallas airport had been closed the day before due to severe weather and flooding. Our flight out of New Orleans was delayed an hour or so, which was fine, we had a good amount of time for the layover and once we got to Dallas, we found that our outgoing flight to San Jose was also delayed, about a half-hour. Looking around the airport we saw the evidence of people spending the night at the airport, army cots were everywhere. The group got dinner and hunkered down to eat, sitting on army cots and chairs by our gate. After about 20 minutes the gate agent called our flight number and said our gate had been changed and the flight delayed again. The reaction from our group was mixed. Some people were sure that we were never going to get home (can you say cranky??) and some just shrugged their shoulders, willing to wait for the weather to clear and safety to prevail. As we gathered our stuff to move to the next gate Yo Momma and Debbie decided that they weren't taking any chances with being stranded overnight without something semi-decent to sleep on. They scooped up the cots and moseyed on down to our new gate. As I sit here observing people, I wonder what people thought of two ladies walking through the airport with their backpacks over one shoulder and army cots under the other. Those are the kind of people I like to travel with.

I kind of like hanging around these airports, in different parts of the country. It makes me realize that no matter where I go, some things will always remain the same. Delays, cranky people and anxiety are everywhere. And most of the time it's the people who you travel with that make the difference.

Edited to add: I posted this, went got a milkshake and came back to find that my gate had changed AND my flight was delayed because...drumroll please...the plane we were supposed to take has mechanical problems and needs to fixed, so we get to wait for another plane to come in. This is just proof to me that God does indeed have a sense of humor. :)

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