This post is for Beckie, because she needs reading material at work and my brain is so full of Sales Meeting I can't get anything creative out of it. I wrote this a few years ago after a long work trip.
i was sitting in an airport in memphis, on a two hour layover, trying to forget the fact that I had gotten up at 4:00 a.m. to make my flight out of Seattle and now I was sitting here doing nothing in a terminal with no bookstore and only BBQ restaurants when all I really wanted was a good salad. and i'm starving but i've eaten my quota of gift shop trail mix for the next ten years and i just can't face it again. so i buy a copy of "dwell" and a copy of "fast company" and i look for a place i can kill what my wanderings through the airport in search of lettuce have now reduced to an hour before my plane leaves.
people are sitting in the waiting area like they always do at airports; every other seat and with their carryon bag taking up the space next to them. So even though theoretically there are plenty of seats for everyone, you often end up standing or on the floor because I'm using my backpack to ward off having to sit next to someone for one second longer than the duration of the flight. I usually have no issue with this arrangement, except that today I am incredibly sleepy and i just want a chair. so i step over two guys forming some sort of blockade with their legs and end up sitting almost directly across from a really good looking guy who appears to be about my age. I notice him immediately because A) he is right across from me, B) he is wearing a great watch and I can hear part of a conversation I had with my brother Sterling where I said no one uses watches anymore because of cell phones and he said, "grownups wear watches". and i am a little excited about the idea that this "boy" is a grownup and I am a grownup and although usually that admission bums me out, today it's just a little bit sexy, and C) the guy notices me as well.
I fly enough to know that cute guy on your airplane is rare and usually accompanied by girlfriend or wife. So I am slightly intrigued by this one. I have now noticed that he is also wearing glasses, he is not wearing a wedding ring, his eyes are brown and that watch is seriously cool.
And then we begin. I start reading my magazine and position it so i can glance up at cute guy while he works on his laptop. We catch eyes a few times. I keep looking away because I have suddenly, unexplainably and frustratingly, lost all ability to flirt. Our suitcases are both on the floor in front of us and I realize that the handle on mine is making it tough to glance at him without being totally obvious. I try to get the handle down and he stops working to watch me. He then moves his bag and turns it into a table so he can lean foward to work on the computer. He struggles with his handle as well so I decide to watch him as well. He is frustrated with the thing and it's sorta cute. Obstacles finally eliminated we return to our distractions. We do this for about 15 minutes and then they announce our flight is delayed due to weather. We look at each other and smile and roll our eyes. 15 more minutes of reading and working. I am engrossed in aerial photos of LA's freeway system. He closes his computer. Looks around. Looks at me. I smile. He smiles. He gets up and walks around, leaves his stuff all over. He comes back. Sits. I put my magazine away. We sit there and watch each other for a minute. I get embarrassed and watch the TV. Then there is an announcement-please ignore the fire drill, it was a false alarm. We look at each other-he laughs, "well good thing since we didn't actually HEAR a fire alarm." I laugh. More computer and magazine. 15 more minutes, they announce we could board in 15 minutes or five minutes so don't go too far. We look at each other again. And we start laughing. He gets up and asks if I would watch his things while he goes to the restroom. Of course, no problem.
And I think of all the times I talk on and on with people at airports, and all the times I start conversations and all the conversations that get started with me that are interesting or boring or fun or lame and how easy it is to start talking with someone. Unless you think this person is really cute, and in your head you are thinking-I am single, maybe he is single, I'd like to get to know this person, he looks interesting-which admittedly is because he's cute but I've been observing him for almost two hours now and I feel like I have a sense that he's a person I would enjoy talking to. All these things are running through my head when he comes back and then they call my row. The plane is small and the space is limited and so I get on the plane. And I'm sitting in my exit row seat, and he gets on and he's scanning the plane, and we make eye contact again and then he slides into his row. And I read some Dwell and think about how people meet each other and how it's really hard but it's also sort of exciting. And how much I love that feeling when you are first into someone and they are so exciting and interesting, and all of their stories are new, and they tell you about things you don't know and all of your best stories get to come out and they think you are funny and smart and confident and they tell you how much they like your laugh and you forget that maybe in six months or six years, you'll think about that time you talked about whether you would let your kids have a dog and it will make you feel sick because you liked him so much and you let him so far in and then when it didn't work you couldn't stand stupid pets and any mention of them for months.
And sometimes I hate it, and sometimes it wears me out, and sometimes I want to quit. But then the dog sadness will fade, and there will be another boy, another watch, another one that will say hey make me a CD, and I like the way you write and your hair when you leave it curly. And this is what I'm used to. And there is a sense of comfort in this.
When we got off the plane we both got on our cell phones right away. We got to the baggage claim and his bag came first, he picked it up, smiled at me, waved, and left. I got those little butterflies you used to get in the cafeteria if the boy you were crushing on smiled at you during lunch.
And I think someday I might miss this. Or at least appreciate that there were days of my life where the pressing issue of the day was whether i should have actually said hello...