• Caroline Harris

Airport People Watching

Travel is one of the things I have missed most since the onset of COVID-19. I come alive when I explore new places -- whether it’s Utah or Florida, England or Cyprus.

Though it is different now, the airport remains one of the best places to people watch. From flustered families at check-in and people with pets in security, to crazy people eating Chinese food at 8am and stressed late flyers sprinting to make it to their gate in time.

On a recent trip to Colorado, I realized how much I missed the chaotic energy of airports. What was once bustling and busy is now battered and barren, but people still circulate, nonetheless.

I find it so intriguing to create mental narratives about interesting-looking people. As I found a seat at my gate, an older man at a nearby bench caught my fascination, standing out from everyone else in the terminal who was entranced by their phones.

These days, our minds have to be constantly stimulated, always distracted by the next thing, hardly living in the moment. This man stood out in the crowd because he wasn’t buried in the tech world or distracted by a big burger. Clothed in a button up, sweater vest, and winter coat, the only casual thing about him was how leisurely he sat, legs crossed and hands lying on his lap, just looking around and taking in what was going on around him.

This man was content right where he was. I could tell he had kind eyes and a content expression, even with a mask covering half of his face.

I wondered what made this man so content. Maybe he is so accomplished that he now simply takes it all in. Maybe he is daydreaming about his next big invention or contemplating whether to get peanut or caramel M&M’s. Caught up in my story-making, I failed to recognize the fact that a nice looking female counterpart had taken the seat beside the interesting man. She was also quiet. They sat there hand in hand, no words spoken, just taking it all in, together. I’ll never know what the wheels in this man’s brain were spinning, but I do know that he wasn’t alone.

I find that it can be hard to feel content when I am also feeling lonely. When we are stripped from all distractions, forced to face the reality of what’s really going on in our minds, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, not meeting the mark, not living up to our own potential. And that is the worst feeling.

This couple’s temperament gave me hope. We don’t need to numb ourselves with our phones, food, or any other worldly thing. True contentment is found in stillness, in places we can actually hear our own thoughts and dreams.

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