After an early morning hour on a plane between 1 loudly unhappy toddler, in the piercing way only toddlers can be loud, 2 slightly older well-behaved children and two tired mothers, I decided to splurge on an airport Irish coffee. It’s hard to spend $15 on even a well-spiked cup of coffee, but as my wallet shrank, my appreciation for humanity regained it’s normal size. I love airport bars.
I’ve travelled a reasonable bit in the last few years, enough to appreciate the weariness business travelers have of travel, but not enough to be tired of it myself. And airport bars, or more specifically, the people at airport bars, are the reason.
People at airport bars are generally open, relatively unguarded. Unlike the physically located bar venues I’ve visited, not many patrons have an agenda, most are there alone, passing time, and most are willing to be engaged, if not downright engaging. There is an interest in who else is there, even if at a superficial level; people in their own world usually opt instead to sit at tables, as the airport is one place where you are not to be standardly judged because you are dining out alone. I’ve yet to sit at an airport bar, and not find a conversation to participate in.
Today’s coffee garnered me a conversation with a man from Michigan, now South Carolina, heading into the cold to visit his son. We didn’t talk of a thing of monument or matter, but we did talk about his son, a 30-something year perspective on the toddler I had just experienced. And a sideways reminder of how quickly time can pass, unnoticed, when we aren’t paying attention to things that matter.
As we deboarded the plane, the toddler identidied everything she saw. It recalled to me a particiant at the silent retreat I attended; she was looking for the “right” path, and one of her searches led to a tradition where thought was limited to immediate identification, I suppose as a means to staying present. How much we lose, in our rites of passage to adulthood, without even knowing.
The airport bar is a place of pausing for presence between steps of a journey. Taking a few moments to genuinely hear someone’s story, however mundane, reminds me of the light in each of us, the search for contentment, connection, purpose in each of us, the desire to be seen, and to see in turn. I shouldn’t need a reminder, but today, that’s worth $15.