Valerie J. Steimle
If you’ve never spent the day at an airport all by yourself, you are really missing out on something. I don’t mean a couple of hours, I mean the whole day. Twelve hours. I had the opportunity last Friday (April 27) to do such a thing. Trying to get myself home from Albuquerque, N.M., I went to the airport with my brother, father and daughter all going in different directions. Since my brother had the rental car, we all went to the airport regardless of our flight times. My brother and father had the earliest flight, so my daughter and I checked our airlines to see if we could get an earlier flight as well. Sarah got hers to Phoenix and I got mine to Dallas. The time was only 9:35am so we got off to a good start.
I got to Dallas and I was on stand by for the next flight to get the rest of the way home. I was originally supposed to get home at 2am but this was much better. If all went well, I would be back by 4pm. I was excited. I was pumped. I was already planning what I could do with my extra time as I was rushing to my next gate. But as I rounded the corner of the hallway, I was stopped dead in my tracks. Not only was the flight over booked, I was number 23 on the standby list. There was no way I was getting on that plane. So I waited for the 2:15pm flight, and then I waited for the 4:45pm flight and then the 7:55pm flight---all with the same message: overbooked and no room.
There happened to be a Jazz Festival the same weekend and everyone wanted to get on those flights. So I got my boarding pass for the 9:40pm flight and sat at the gate for a nice long wait. By now it was 5pm and I had already taken two rides on the train around the airport to see the outside world. I called my family to talk. I watched a bird chase a butterfly outside the window. I bought some lunch and watched CNN news for a while. I wrote in my notebook for my morning pages and I read my book Jesus the Christ. I looked at pictures on my digital camera and even prayed a while as I sat there. By 5pm, I was beginning to feel like the Tom Hanks character, Victor Navorski, in that movie: The Terminal. Although I wasn’t planning on sleeping there over night, I had that “never-going-to-get-out-of-here” feeling.
I used the rest room a couple of times and bought a pack of life savors. I watched the clouds roll by and observed the little men working to get luggage on and off the plane. Ahhh, the sunset. What a beautiful sight. I made conversation with the other standby victims and watched people rush by to catch their plane flights. By now the 7:55 flight had just left and the last flight out of Dallas, my flight, at 9:40 was changed to 10pm. 10pm!? Come to find out the plane flying in was coming from Canada. Canada?........ to Dallas? I’ll be lucky to get out of here before midnight. I took a walk around the airport mall. What a long day it was.
It’s a humbling experience to be all by yourself for so long a time. The first six hours I became self-absorbed. Only thinking about myself and my situation. The last six hours I paid attention to what was going on around me. I talked to people. I became involved with what was going on in the airport. I helped two older women with their missed flight. I conversed with the others who were on the flight with me at 10pm. That made the stay much more pleasant and very memorable. Finally, we were all boarded by 10:10 and I was on my way home. The time went faster when I was more involved and it didn’t seem so bad.
I will always remember this day. Remember how I felt all alone for the first six hours and how much better it is to share. Remember that the next time—if there is a next time--to open up to others in the same situation. Remember that my day went much better when I thought about others instead of myself. I’ll always remember my day at the airport.