I am sitting at the airport, enduring yet another flight delay; which hopefully will not magically transform itself into a flight cancellation. It is amazing what an additional eighty minutes of waiting can do to an already anxious crowd. The good news is that the mob at the gate has not yet lit torches. The bad news is that this artificially assembled tribe might smear on the ritual face paint and declare war at any time!
By my estimation, and numerous airline records spanning carriers from around the globe; I have flown right at 1.2 million miles on some 800 or more flights. I tend to be an early arrival at the gate area, so it would be safe to estimate that I have spent at least an hour waiting for boarding at each of my flights. Do some quick math and you will quickly arrive at the fact that I have spent over a month of my life sitting in gate areas all over the world.
Most of you would lament what a colossal waste of thirty days my airport tenancy has been. I do not share that mindset at all. In fact, I have loved every second of having my rear end glued to an uncomfortable gate area seat! It has given me a wonderful excuse for one of my favorite activities; people watching! Now some would call it staring, and others might label it as prying or even snooping; I prefer to think of my actions as observing the totality of the human condition!
I have witnessed the teary eyed newlywed saying goodbye to her new spouse just one more time through the coldness of a cell phone. Enthusiastic businessmen have high-fived directly in front of me as they celebrated their latest win. I have sat across from the exhausted recently christened road warrior as he checked his email yet once again. My ears have formed a safe haven for the frustrations being vented by a flight attendant as she realized we shared common ground in the form of too many air miles in too short a time frame. Over the years, I have given directions to the baggage claim area in four different languages and a wide variety of universal hand gestures and charades.
The totality of the human experience has played itself out in front of me; showing me the very best and the very worst that lies resident within each of us. The drunken frequent flyer lashing out at a hapless gate agent has made me want to jump in and spank the offender. The woman who, no doubt frustrated by the flying experience, screamed at and berated her child publicly tempted me to call social services. Then there was the young man, offering to take a later flight and give up his seat; all so an unknown elderly woman would not miss the birth of her first great-grandchild. My eyes still tear up over the well-dressed businesswoman asking that her first class seat be relinquished to one of our returning soldiers.
At the risk of being sued by United Artists, I have enjoyed my very own personal screening of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” In short, I have seen the most commendable and the most despicable sides of the human coin. It reminds me of how fragile all of us can be. It also drives home the fact that I am part of the larger condition. All of us have moments we are proud of and times we wish we were not so ashamed of. We have collections of triumphs and disappointments. In recognizing this, we arrive at the conclusion that perhaps we are not as alone as we think we are.
None of us can claim a victory that was not built upon the shoulders of others. Even if the effort was solely ours, somebody has to be credited with giving us our work ethic or our education or our outlook on life. The same holds for our defeats, which we tend to be more likely to create on our own. How we handle these downfalls can also be credited to the many others who have influenced our life.
I find it ironic that I feel the most connected to the world when I am in the presence of total strangers. I will admit that I am more hypersensitive than most and that I am readily willing to connect with anybody. Nonetheless, I am confident that all of us have the ability to feel the human experience in its glorious totality. The secret is quite simple; realize you are not alone, be willing to share of yourself openly, and realize that you have something to learn from everyone you encounter in life. From there, the rest is simple.
As for me, it is time to wrap up this blog post. I need to focus on the crowd forming at the gate area. Who knows? One of them may be people-watching me right at this very moment! I would hate to miss out on the opportunity to touch another soul!