America | Culture | Travel

People Watching at the Airport

Arriving early at the airport for my flight home, I knocked off a few thousand steps walking around the terminal. I’m stuck by the commitment to drinking at 7 AM as I passed bar after bar of people nursing adult beverages. I’m no prude, and you never know what time zone someone in an airport is from, but still, it was noteworthy. Then again, I’m on business travel, others are starting vacations, going to the Super Bowl, or calming pre-flight jitters. I don’t get jitters, I’m not going to the Super Bowl, and work beckons. But first those steps.

I have emails dropping in my in-box and a business plan to write. I have follow-up to do after a week on the road. There’s no time for people-watching, but my eyes are drawn upward to the steady stream of people walking by on their long walk to faraway gates. Well, most are walking, while a few are sprinting at full speed, rolling luggage precariously skimming along beside them. Others are taking the courtesy carts, which hum on by, beeping warnings to drowsy zig-zaggers.

I check email, draft a few bullet points for the business plan, stretch and look around again. More people streaming by. And more masks than normal as coronavirus makes the news-readers voices pitch upward in alarm and people who take precautions. The world isn’t a healthy place at the moment, with people and the planet exhibiting symptoms of larger problems. I have an equally-low tolerance for climate deniers and conspiracy theorists and party-first politicians alike. I know I don’t know everything, but I’ll be the first to admit that. Zealots who announce they have it all figured out if you’ll just trust their what they say (but not what they do) have no place in my world, thank you. But as you watch the stream of people walking by, you see that we’re all just people making our way from here to there. We’re all on the same journey, even the charlatans.

I used to think I didn’t like Kobe Bryant or Alex Rodrigues, not because they’re bad people, but because they weren’t on the teams I was rooting for. Bryant passing away highlighted what a great person he was: by all accounts a great dad who was using his money and influence to make the world a better place. I noticed a change in myself about these characters you build up in your mind, opinions formed about someone based on a uniform or a political affiliation. I’m getting better at not passing judgement on people, and travel helps with that. We’re all pretty much the same, with a few outliers muddying up the waters. As I watch people walk by I’m not thinking about MAGA hat-wearers or liberal “woke” activists or which team someone cheers for in the Super Bowl. Maybe I need to stop judging zealots and charlatans too? You don’t have to follow someone just because they’re going in a direction you aren’t going in.

If Kobe Bryant’s sudden death did anything, it was unite very different people in celebration of a life and mourning for it ending too soon. We’re all just marching down the terminal of life, expecting a certain destination we aren’t guaranteed. Given the tenuous nature of our time here, doesn’t it make sense to support each other on the journey? I think so anyway. And now you’ll have to excuse me, I have a plane to catch.

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