Even now, as we wait for our connecting flight to Minneapolis on our way to Paris — France, not the hotel in Vegas, though that wouldn’t be a bad alternative — I’m looking around a fairly uncrowded airport in San Francisco. Everyone here — including me — is dressed in drab, comfortable clothing like wool sweaters, ill-fitting jeans, oversize hoodies and college sweatshirts, mostly in the range of London gray to faded black. No one is talking. Most folks are nursing coffees and eating overpriced cafe food — cups of fruit chunks, banana bran muffins, blueberry scones — and waiting for their flights to Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis.
Maybe that’s why everyone looks so sullen.
I suspect a lot of this has to do with Sept. 11, when airports — and airport security — as we knew it changed forever. No longer could families hang out at the gates, waiting for their loved ones to return home. No longer could couples say their final goodbyes, waving as they made their way down the gangway. And no longer can we just fly through security without taking off our shoes or giving up a piece of our personal freedom, it feels like. My, how things have changed.
I remember hanging out for hours at the gates at the Honolulu International Airport, playing trumps with my friends one last time before they headed to a college that experienced four seasons. We would bring Zip Pacs from Zippy’s, play music, spread out on mats and pillows. It was an event.
Now you have to say goodbye at the curb — or at the farewell party at Ryan’s Bar & Grill the night before. You can’t be there for your friend’s final moments in Honolulu — and that’s sad.
But in a way, it’s nice, too.
I much prefer to be sitting alone at the gate, where I don’t have to focus on the sad part about leaving. I don’t have my parents here, constantly telling me to be safe and not yell, “Jihad,” in a public place. I don’t have my friends here, reminding me of everything I’ll be missing. I’m just sitting here, updating my Facebook page and reading the latest book by David Sedaris in that hopeful anticipation of what’s coming up next.
Hmm. Maybe that’s what everyone is doing here.
Two more flights and 15 hours to go!
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