I dislike flying, but I really like airports. I happily arrive more than the one hour recommended pre-flight. In the process of looking at the Big Board for my gate number, I peruse all the other flights. Where else could I go? What other flights to unique and interesting places are departing around the same time as my scheduled flight? I consider throwing caution to the wind and I want to jump onto some random trip to a foreign-to-me location instead of my regularly scheduled program.
Instead, I find my gate and commandeer a somewhat comfortable spot (usually on the floor next to an outlet lest my iPad run out of battery and I can’t watch a movie on the plane. Whatever did I do before this technology? Read those archaic wood pulp things called ‘books’?)
People watching is one of my favorite past times and airports are some of the best places to do this. Especially big international airports like John F Kennedy airport in New York. This huge city is home of some of the most diverse clusters of people anywhere on this planet. It amazes me that not only do all these people manage to move around each other with relative ease, they are often friendly and helpful. From the outside, one would easily assume that the small over populated Island of Manhattan would be less like a helpful community of oddly synchronized and interesting individuals, but more like hungry, angry rats scrabbling for the last bits of bread. The movie “Escape from New York” comes to mind.
JFK is a microcosm of the boroughs it borders. There are travelers from all over the world. They are transported by lengths of people movers and caffeine. At each gate there is a (cell phone) charging station. I’ve seen more than a few people plug their phones in and walk away, only to return a short time later to retrieve their phones. I am too paranoid to do this. Obviously, I am not a native New Yorker.
While there is definitely an overload of crime here, there is also a distinct faith in an honesty of human nature that includes a friendliness we usually think is reserved for Rockwellian small towns.
As I people-watch, I switch from wondering to what new travel spot I could go, to considering the people I’m seeing. That guy with the snappy pointy wing-tips, t-shirt, and sport jacket…the woman with the stroller and squalling grub seated inside (I hope they aren’t on my flight!)… the man sitting next to me madly typing away at his laptop, a spreadsheet and email open on the monitor. I wonder about their lives and from where they came, and to where they are going.
My people watching stops as soon as I board the plane. I crawl into my headphones and concentrate on my media as distraction from the noisy, crowded, and sometimes bumpy flight.