Airport Sightings

Airports still fascinate me. People united under one common goal: travel. Some returning to familiar destinations, others bound to explore new territories. Airports represent the journey’s beginning and end; yet, it is neither the end nor the beginning. It’s the transition point – every travelers’ limbo – between here and there. Groups are narrowed down during boarding time, and eventually divided into proximate sections (almost too proximate). A conversation might result or, depending on the current state-of-mind, sleep might assure an easy route. After landing, another airport will reception the group, eventually splitting apart and pursuing individual destinations.

I first flew when I was eight years old. Back then, the actual highlight was the idea of flying as opposed to being stranded in an airport. Waiting amidst an adult playground seemed awful, but flying through white fluffy clouds compensated the wait. As we grow however, we realize clouds are nothing like cotton candy and no one can see you through the small round windows (no matter how much you wave). It might also have something to do with airplane seats becoming too small to comfortably accommodate any adult body. Airports offer space, options, possibilities.

The most remarkable thing about airports regards the rapid encounter with random people; eye stares, accidental bumps, quick sightings, and probable never-again encounters. Crowd watch is one personal favorite pastime; inevitably, some faces standout amidst the crowd. Some standout to memorizing standards, and believe it or not, I have seen memorized airport faces outside of such habitat – a week or two later – and I could still associate that face to the specific time and place. I even considered approaching the person.

Three outcomes could ensue. Most probably, he/she would not be able to label a specific time a place, and instead, label me a creep. An awkward situation, to say the least, which I have never been willing to try – at least, not with airport sightings. The person could be the friendly type, and still manage to get over the awkwardness (hold that thought). I might not be good memorizing names, but I will never forget a face. I have actually approached people I had seen at other environments besides airports, and the outcome was not encouraging. Thinking the other way around, I have had people approach me and say I looked familiar, but we could never decide the place or moment in life in which we might have become acquaintances. I would still be friendly, but I never had a friendship resulting from such approaches; hence, the reluctance.

In another case scenario, the person would recognize me, yet he/she would try to pretend as though I was a complete stranger. Reasons vary, but quite possibly the person would not want to admit fearing the “weird” factor could backfire. Third possibility, and most improbable, a mutual acknowledgement would assure a pleasant conversation. The outcomes here are great, and I will let your imagination fill the void.

Point is: airports are impersonal spaces crowded with people. Either because we know we won’t be there for too long, we separate ourselves from the environment. Despite all the space, options and possibilities, airports are playgrounds without much play. They are exit and entrance, beginning and end. Airports are neutral territory – and neutrality does not own a face.