“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for the day-job. Just yesterday I returned from an overnight (yes overnight) trip from Tuscaloosa to Minneapolis. It was planned that I would be home by mid-evening yesterday but...well...the Travel Gods had other plans. Yep Chicago had me for an extra 7.5 hours.
That is a little longer than I normally spend in an airport.
But...there was a silver lining. Once the aggravation, annoyance and realization that the food court had Twizzlers & Fruit Snacks everything was better. On my trip up to Minneapolis I read Old Magic by Marianne Curley (wonderful book by the way - VERY interesting main characters in Kate & Jarrod) and on the way back discovered I was without a book EEK!!! Yep, so I decided to sketch a little, then I bought a magazine, then I wandered around the shops, then I finished the Twizzlers, then I bought more, then I ate the Fruit Snacks, then I bought more...(forget the pattern it is merely a distraction). I finally found a comfortable spot (at what was hopefully but not really the last gate they would move my flight to) and decided to click on the iPod for a little while. It was after doing this that everything shifted.
All around me people were working to decipher how they would arrive at their destination, how they could somehow manage to manipulate something completely out of their control and make it work for them. It is at that moment I laughed..yep you know me.. out loud and quite hysterically due to the tired mind. I was yet again perplexed by the many ways that life steps in.
You see in the 2.5 hours I had already spent at the Chicago Midway Airport I had befriended & shared a pizza with a young man of twenty-four. He is in barber school in Chicago and was headed on Spring Break to Phoenix. He aspires one day to be a musical engineer. He talked passionately about his love for music in every genre and how it lead to his first & only tattoo. We discussed how great Arizona is, how the weather in Chicago was, the crazy way the airlines were acting and just got to know one another. Luckily his flight left after only an hour delay. His name was Darius.
Next I befriended Gloria. She was on her way to Baltimore to visit family. It has been two years since her return home. Work & money has kept her from seeing them. She gave me her copy of LUCKY magazine and I watched her beer & bags for her while she stood at the counter to hear the status of her delayed flight. She made it out of there about 15 minutes after that.
2 more hours pass and I am curled up in a chair listening to music and sporadically watching a FRIENDS episode on my iPod. Then Trina sits beside me and smiles. She is 8 years old, brunette, her favorite word is jelly (oh and she says: jah-el-ly) and her older brother is taking her to see her aunt in San Diego. Her brother is 16. They will be moving in with their aunt for good this summer. I don't know the details other than there are limited options, but I can tell you at 16 Stanley is an awesome young man. He spoke to her in a voice that all little sisters love: the one that says "I am listening, you are important to me". They chatted, we played games on my phone and the DS she had with her. They were not delayed and I was sad to see them go.
Kevin is 31. He was raised in Ft. Lauderdale. He now lives outside Arizona. He was supposed to be in Orlando...yeah wasn't there yet. His final destination was outside Columbus, Georgia. He enjoys traveling, but normally drives. He makes this trek every year during the same time. His grandmother is 94 today. 180 people will commence on her rural town, all related, all excited and all because she said to come. He told me she is still as spry and demanding as always. "The hell you catch if you don't go is much worse than 32 hours in a car to get there." He said with a grin. We talked about travels, about routes, about how far Birmingham is from Atlanta. He told me of how she still lives in the same spot she's lived in since 1934 when she was married at 18. Her husband passed away almost 20 years ago. They could not get her to move, but she did finally allow them to build her a new home where her "shack" used to be. Kevin said that she made them promise it would sit on the same spot of land her husband worked so hard to procure when they were young. He spoke of her with a smile in his eyes and it moved me. I had him from Chicago to Birmingham. We shared a row on the plane and I smiled the entire flight (oh there was a moment of concern when the pilot sort of just dropped the plane down but that is an entirely other story). We parted ways at the exit and I wished him safe travels.
We are all weary travelers. We all tend to get ill when we lose a little control or the end is just out of reach. We forget that every day is a travel destination waiting to happen. We sometimes overlook the fact that being travelers is a gift not a hassle. Yes, things do get a little crazy and we get disturbed when not in our normal habitat but then, then we see it.
I saw how glorious a sibling can be when obviously he has had to be more than a sibling.
I watched a little girl look at a boy already acknowledging that Superman has nothing on her big brother.
I shared lunch with a complete stranger and found a passionate dreamer beneath what stereotypes would call thuggish.
I listened to a woman whose voice caught when she spoke of going home again.
I watched a man describe a woman who is first an amazing person then a grandmother.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights;
it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
– Miriam Beard
This quote is one of my favorites. When I first starting really traveling for the day job I memorized it. Sadly sometimes I fail to bring it forward when my travels don't go as planned. But this time I had some help from some strangers who reminded me that I am not the only aggravated passenger on Southwest flight 283, that I luckily get to visit my family often, that I have two parents who loved me growing up & still do, that stereotypes really shouldn't make us judge, and that living life is an awesome gift - to live it for almost 100 years is beyond phenomenal. It wasn't a Hallmark scripted television show that reminded me or even a fictional story, it was travelers, strangers, new friends, and real characters. It is refreshing to be reminded how real life can be.
Who have you talked to lately? A stranger? A family member? A friend? Whoever it is, why did the conversation leave a mark on your memory?