(Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, for whatever reason, was stuck in my head this morning. That song is beautiful poetry. The following is not)
Hello airport lobby, my old friend
I’ve come to wait in you again
Because demands for security screening
Brought me here when I should be sleeping
And now I’m sitting, staring at the backs of empty chairs.
No one cares.
While I wait, for the early flight
I don’t know why I booked this flight
The sun hasn’t shone its light.
While I wish I could return to bed
I look for someplace I might rest my head
But then I cringe at the sound of the intercom
Calling Tom –
Please return, your flight’s departing
And then I glanced at the corridor
A dozen people, maybe more
People shuffling like walking dead
People moving like limbs are lead
People whose current style is a photo they’ll never share
No one dares
Make pre-flight contact
Sigh, I thought, it’s a look I too well know
As the crowd began to grow
I turned my gaze back to my gate
How I wished I’d left on a different date
But my wishes, like those for extra sleep
Were interrupted, by the speaker’s bleep
And the people yawned and swayed
As they continued on their way
And a sign flashed it was time for boarding
Then I saw a line quickly forming
And I knew, that the time for complaining was done…
…at least, this one
So began my day, with an early flight
I have long maintained that the middle gates at the airport are purely for decoration. I believe their waiting areas are filled with paid extras placed to make an airport seem more profitable than it actually is. I say this because no matter where my work sends me across the globe, my gate is always one of the furthest from the security checkpoint. I guess it is also the airline’s way of protecting passengers from blood clots by ensuring they have plenty of exercise prior to boarding. My travel arrangements on this latest business trip proved to be no exception.
After weaving out of what felt like miles of pedestrian traffic, I finally made it to my departing gate. Looking at a nearby monitor, I was delighted to see that my flight was on schedule, which is a phenomena almost as rare for me as getting a flight out of a middle gate. I glanced at my watch. Shew. I’d made it with only a few minutes until boarding time. I began jockeying for position in line as an attendant stepped up to the microphone. Let’s get this trip over with.
“Umm… ladies and gentlemen… er… I have been told your aircraft is on the ground, but… um… we just don’t know exactly where it is on the tarmac. But we’ll get it turned around and send you on your way just as soon as it gets here.”
A collective groan swelled through the waiting area, mine included. How can you lose a plane? Especially today? Ugh. Whatever happened to the glamour of air travel? I looked at my fellow passengers. They looked as frazzled and travel weary as I was. A woman across from me dressed in sweats and hair astray slouched in her chair as she passed along the update to someone on the other end of a phone call. “This has been the longest day ever…I just want to get home.” Another turned around and made his way to the closest bar. As I looked around the waiting area the words of the poem, The New Colossus, came to mind. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
The words that so aptly described those of us stuck in airport purgatory that evening are the same that adorn the Statue of Liberty. They are the same words that for years have greeted family after family as they made their way into America. But now they no longer ring true. The borders are closing. We are more selective with who we let in.
My plane eventually arrived at the gate. I made it to my destination and back home again, but for so many, their dreams for a better life might now seem like my plane – lost somewhere out on the tarmac. Without hope, what options will they have? I recognize that we have our own problems. We don’t have resources in place for those who are already here. We can’t prevent those who wish us harm from intermingling with those possessing more honorable intentions, but I worry that desperate people will do desperate things and we will only be trading one problem for another.
Humanity learned to fly and even touched the moon. Surely we can find an answer to another impossible problem.
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