I used to love the thrill of an Airport. The hustle of people rushing from one end to the other. The frantic sprint of the couple who is about to miss their connecting flight. The excited chatter of a small child carrying an overstuffed backpack containing games, cards, paper, snacks, drinks, change of clothes- all for a one-hour flight. The excited screams of families reunited together at the gates- permanently blocking the way of fellow travelers, but no one ‘yelled’ yelled at them.
Do you remember the light music of the 1980’s played overhead, making you feel like you needed to get up and stretch your legs- which always led to going to the gift shop to buy some overpriced stuffed animal and pair of ‘authentic’ earrings made by ‘true locals?’ Good times!
The baggage claim was especially memorable for me. Hundreds of individuals were crowding around a moving belt- willing their suitcases to be the first one out. Grandmothers yelled across the crowd at the grandfathers to be careful because the large black suitcase was filled with gifts. Grandfathers knew damn well what was in the bag, and there was nothing breakable in it. Then, the nauseating flight of small children running in circles- filled with energy and spunk, all were trying to sneak away to some unknown destination.
Why did men hustle for prime real estate? What was it about standing as close as you can to the drop spot that would make the process go quicker? Why did every single mother stand in the background directing traffic? Inevitability- they never pointed out the right suitcase.
I remember when we used to dress to impress when taking the airways. It didn’t matter- 45 minutes flight or a 4-hour flight- mom made sure that we were primmed, primed, and ready to shine. She knew that hundreds of people were going to judge her as the Queen of the Household for the next day by how her family behaved and looked while walking the airport halls. There is no Beauty Queen Pagnet in the world that has more stress than a mother taking her family on a family vacation to backwoods Ohio to see the in-laws.
Airports have changed!
Or is it me?
Maybe it’s because the mask mandates have muffled voices. Perhaps the empty walkways are because we figured out the Zoom business meetings cost less than personal handshakes and lunch meetings. Maybe families are not traveling together because after the last year and half of nothing but family time- we are all planning septate vacations to different locations across the world? It could be because the excited chatter of children has been replaced with Skull Candy earphones and the constant swapping ‘up’ on the screen as they change TicTok videos?
Now don’t get me wrong- I still watch people just as intently as I did as a child. However, instead of seeing the newest clothing and/or shoe fad, I judge the latest and greatest hunting gear patterns as tourists come to Alaska for their ‘bucket list’ Moose or Bear hunt. I can tell they are tourists because, just like those 5-inch high-heels that used to be the background sounds of tap, tap, tap- I can hear the squeaks of new weatherproof boots from a mile down the walkways. They sound like every step is the last breath of a tired duck.
I am amused by women who have forgone the class of our grandmothers (myself included), and now we all fight to see who can get the messiest of ‘messy hair buns’ and the tightest of ‘loose and comfortable’ yoga pants. Teenagers walk around, headphones on, with oversize sweatshirts and flannel bottoms, socks pulled up OVER their leg pants and wearing the ever still popular- Crocs. I ran into a few teenage girls running sprints on the moving walkway- and they decided that shoes were most definitely optional when in a public area. Brave souls!
I am not judging. I am just taking notes. For example, I learned something today that I might not have otherwise thought of! A woman was carrying a reusable Fred Meyers bag as her carry-on! That ‘carry-on’ had more stuffed into it than a medium-sized duffle bag- and it was free of charge! Brilliant Idea!
The teenagers- wearing flannel pants in public? They are multi-taskers! When they arrive at their final destination, they are already ready for bed.
What I don’t see anymore are people like me. We are the ones sitting along the back wall, with no cell phone in hand, just watching as people walk by us. Instead, we have four books tucked between our suitcases, carry-on, and purse; the newest Life and History Channel magazines are just as hidden as a person with a concealed weapon permit and a 9mm strapped to their waist. Next to our bag, we have hidden a small notebook and pen to discreetly jot down reminders for our Adventures of the Airport journal entry.
- When did small dogs in purses become a fashion trend?
- Why did TSA take my travel-size bottle of hair spray but allow the guys with fishing lures the size of a small trout attached to their hats through security?
- Why did Starbucks stop selling Egg Nog Lattes?
- How come the stores in the airport are allowed to sell Chex Mix and Dr. Pepper that has been expired for three months, but I get yelled at for buying milk that will expire in a week?
- Do locals REALLY handcraft those earrings from a distant village over 100 miles away? How do they end up at the airport boutique, cleverly placed in a display worthy of a French museum?
- Who is the poor soul that has to clean the windows at every terminal? I watched as three children touched, licked, wiped their noses, and banged on them for an hour. I wouldn’t touch them for the $15.00 an hour that the airport advertised as starting pay.
- When was the last time some of these people changed out their masks? Not even changed them out, just washed them? I am not judging the mask mandate! I am just saying, that tiny blue medical mask that you have had since last year might need to be retired! Or if you are wearing a cloth one and keep it on while drinking and eating by just lifting the bottom to consume- you may want to rethink the amount of ketchup you use on your fries! Just from where I am sitting- you may be using too much—just a thought.
The ticket counter attendant is saying something about we are boarding now. I think it is time to put on my noise-canceling earphones. It is not like I turn them on; I just don’t want to have to engage in predictable conversation of ‘Do you live in Alaska?’ Or my favorite- ‘What is there to do in Fairbanks when it is -40 degrees?’ Survive Karen- we just survive.
It has been a while since I got to sit in an airport for 4 hours while waiting on my 47-minute flight home. This has been fun. However, I am ready for my own bed, a hot shower, a real cup of coffee, and I need to get to Fred Meyers to get a reusable grocery bag to use as my carry-on.