Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Airport Moments

Cover of "The Terminal (Widescreen Editio...

Cover of The Terminal (Widescreen Edition)


I’m sitting here in the middle of a two hour layover at an airport that could use a serious makeover.  There is a pervasive nuance of worn out and drone in this place.  It’s not that I’m a world traveler and have a large repertoire of airports to pull out from experience to offer up comparisons, I’m calling it as I see it.  Plus, having caught a flight out of an especially aesthtic airport this morning (Portland–PDX–Orgeon progressive at its best),  it’s a real let down to spend excess time in a rundown terminal.  I shall not name it, except to say it’s in the Southwest and it’s hot out there.  Real hot.  Like I hope I have a covered tarmac to the plane because it’s heatstroke weather hot outside. (I didn’t–I nearly melted like a candy bar left on the dashboard)

Being between flights there is not much to do.  On the other hand, there is plenty to do in the people watching department.  My writer’s mind is storing all sorts of vignettes as I pretend I’m occupying myself with my laptop (well, I guess I am–this post is proof).

First Moment:
People-mover walkways never cease to amaze me.  Why do people walk on boring airplane motiff carpet when they can be transported on the rolling terminal sidewalk?  A fave is to stride aboard and walk with purpose, as if I am a Person Of Importance. Slow movers ride the right side as I power-walk down to my place of destination. The scenario:

“Sylvia checked her voice mail quickly, before reconfirming her flight and gate number.  Securing her phone into her purse, she mentally rehearsed her opening remarks  once again, allowing spots of applause and appreciative chuckles within the time frame.  Her thoughts were hampered by the incessant recording “the sidewalk is ending–please watch your step.”  Wait, that could be a metaphor.  Life is like a moving sidewalk in that we simply step on and roll through life and if we aren’t careful we can end up stumbling at the end.  Sylvia decided she would work it into remarks.”

Second Moment:
How does someone end up working behind an airport Burger King counter?  I pondered this as the cashier rang up my purchase. Did she think at fifteen that she would be handing back, “Have a nice day” with someone’s change when she was 32?  Would she go back, if possible, and say, “Girl, listen up to the counselor. You had better sign up for geometry, take that Biology II class, and don’t forget to study for your vocabulary test on Wednesday, otherwise you will be still wearing that zip up fugly polyster uniform when you get out of high school.”  She maybe took the wrong Frost path.

Third Moment:
“Look at this, no hands.  It’s self-propelled.”  This comment is directed to the woman in the airport courtesy wheelchair. The attendant grins widely as he walks alongside her.  She looks over at him like he’s popped a lugnut off his hubcap and his sanity is seriously wobbling.  Then, she smiles and they both share a laugh before he grabs a hold of the handle and continues pushing her towards her flight.  My thought: “Cool.  Way to make a rainbow in the middle of day.”

There are many more micro-moments: the guy in a ponytail, too tight plaid bermuda shorts and too small Calvin and Hobbes t-shirt and no visible carry-on luggage (hmmmm…), the grandma next to me reading her e-reader (who says Greys don’t do tech?),  the anxious bumped passengers waiting to get their name called off the short list (reactions range from resignation to disgruntled subdued rants shared on phones).

I remember watching a movie with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones a few years back, The Terminal,where due to circumstances beyond his control, Hanks ended up living at the airport, all the while harboring a passion for Jones, who is a stewardess.  I would not want to live at the airport, at least not this one.

Eve Bunting wrote a picture book, Flyaway Home,  about a father and young son who choose to live at an airport instead of the streets.  Both the movie and the book showed how airports are made for short visits and not lengthy stays.  Wait–my flight is finally being called.  I’m bound for home, or will be home soon enough.  Airports, are best suited for destination portals, and people watching.  Home addresses they do not make.


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4 thoughts on “Airport Moments

  1. I like this. There’s never a really dull moment when you have an imagination!

  2. Wow, I love your writing style in this piece, it’s really great. It’s quirky and really holds the attention.
    Keep up the great work! 🙂

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