Peripheral Prompt (Airport Blues)


I love people watching.

I have a fear of being late. Particularly when I’m travelling. I’ve often been poked fun at because I’ll show up at the airport 2 1/2 hours early for domestic flights, and 3-4 for international. My mind is always worried.

“What if there’s a delay at the security line?”
“What if I REALLY have to go to the bathroom?”
“What happens if it takes forever to get my food?”
“What if there’s a mass failure with the check-in counters?”
“What if I’m the last line of defence between a terrorist and his ultimate plot?”

Of course, I’ve missed a flight before. I know what happens. You dig a little deeper in your pocket and they find you a new flight. Still, I don’t mess around when it comes to that kind of thing. Even when I have an hour to clear security, if there’s a big long line, my heart is in my throat. There’s always some important business woman, or some crotchety-beyond-his-years man, who’s far too important. They hold up the line because THEY couldn’t possibly be the one who gets selected for a “random search”.

So people poke fun.

“That’s crazy! Why work yourself up over that?!”
“You know you only have to be there an hour before domestics right?”
“Doesn’t that just waste your day? Getting there so early?”
“What could you possibly do with all that extra time at the airport?!”

I’ll do a crossword. Read. Sometimes, depending on the airport, I’ll putz around the little duty free shops. I rarely if ever buy anything, but occasionally you find some neat things.

Mostly, I people watch. I see the people like me, who got there early, possibly with the same paranoias as I have. These people are usually trying to wrangle 2-3 children, the more likely cause of their early arrival. I see the people booking it for their gate as their name is belched over the intercom 2, 3, 4, and a 5th and final time. Each time a different pronunciation. Just in case they got in wrong the other times.

“Henry Young to Gate 33 please!”
“Henry Yoong to Gate 33 please!”
“Henry Yo-Ung to Gate 33 please!”

I write stories in my head for the more colourful folk.

Like Momar, the timid fundamentalist. Today is his first real mission. He looks decidedly uncomfortable wearing a businessman’s suit. His long straggly beard belies the image of the successful New York banker he’s trying to portray. He doesn’t want to be here. He comes from a long line of religious extremists though; “It’s in your blood” his father once said. Momar dreams of simpler things. Like owning his own textile mill. We will end up sitting beside each other.

I will be the last line of defence. I will have watched him. I will know what’s lying behind those fatigued, hang-dog eyes. I will talk sense into him, and he will open that textile mill in Porto-Novo. I will visit him one day. We will share a meal with his family, his extended family- all the workers from the factory. We will have an enormous feast and dance the night away under the Beninese moon. Momar and I will shake hands, we will hug. We will laugh. He will thank me and call me his brother. We will never speak of his true intentions on October 3rd 2011. We will just appreciate the moment that was created that fateful day.

That’s why I show up early.



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