I’ve been traveling a lot for the last week—a family wedding, then a business trip. This has given me a lot of time in the airport, one of my favorite places to be.
That may sound strange, or like I’m being sarcastic, but I mean it. On a regular day, when I’m at the airport on time and nothing’s canceled, it’s a wonderful place for a person who is interested in other people. There are stories all around.
As I was approaching the security line on Monday, I saw what looked like a mother and adult son embracing. He held her hard, and when they broke apart, he had tears running down his face. She entered the security line, and he started to walk away, very slowly, looking back at her frequently. She made her way down the switchbacks of the line, getting more upset as she walked. By the time she reach the podium of the TSA agent, she was crying. I offered her a tissue and when she thanked me, I noticed that we didn’t speak the same language. I put my hand to my heart and told her I was sorry for her trouble.
Walking through the terminal, I saw a woman leaning over into the face of her daughter, in a pose I instantly recognized as one a parent uses to try to rein in a child’s behavior as quickly and sternly as possible without losing their composure in public. She had two other children with her, and the one getting the talking-to had an expression of having been wronged. Her sister, unseen by their mom, had the expression of a kid who was getting away with something.
People in the airport are often in some kind of unusual circumstance—vacation, family emergency, sudden urgency caused by travel difficulties. They tell you so much about themselves in these moments of stress. People are infinitely fascinating–just let them show you.