Airports and Airplanes

There is a grand majesty when one thinks of airports and airplanes. At least I think there is. Thousands of people moving all over the world, at once. I love airports.

There is something adventurous about them. I try to imagine all the folks in those checkin lines, where are they heading? That family with children, I wonder if it is their first vacation, ever. Perhaps their fifth one this year. Is their destination an all expense paid resort in Mexico? A visit to grand parents in New Hampshire, England, China? What about that guy over there. The exhausted look. Bags underneath his eyes may suggest a long distance traveler catching a connection. Maybe consulting, under stress, off to another place to save the day or lay off thousands of works in the name of streamlining. Or maybe, just maybe, if I had caught him earlier putting his wedding ring back on his finger, I would think different. That look perhaps means guilt. Now, that lady over there is emitting vibes of fascination. An air hostess, oops, sorry, wrong term. They are now called flight attendants. Sounds more gender neutral. Long ago, after high school, I too applied to be an air hostess, I mean flight attendant. The thought of jet setting to exotic worlds and new places is, was, is intoxicating. Sadly, I didn’t speak French so, I lost that intoxicating opportunity.

I love airports. To me they are cities within cities. Truly multicultural with nationalities from all over the world. I have a habit of arriving early when I fly. Extremely early. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, but some think me crazy because of this. I love the bookstores at the terminals. Just to browse the books, never to buy. Usually, people don’t venture to these stores. With iPhones, Kindles, ebooks, everyone is already prepared. I too have these basic necessities with me but, I just love browsing the shelves. Sometimes I stare at the flight monitors. I wonder whose heading to Frankfurt today. I would like travel to Seoul or Tokyo someday. Fantasies that may or may not happen, books I may or may not buy, that family on vacation, that woman catching a connection just stopped in town for a quickie. I love airports.

I don’t remember much from the flight from Pakistan to Canada. Just bits and pieces. I cannot even confirm if they are real or a child’s imagination. We said good bye to our grand parents, rather casually. Our auntie also had a flight at the same time as we did. But, they were heading to Karachi from Lahore. I remember the old domestic and international terminals were separated by a glass wall. Somehow we managed to get permission from the authorities to let us speak on the security intercoms. I remember my auntie putting her hand on the glass wall while holding the white intercom phone in the other. I wonder if my parents cried at that moment. I don’t remember. I have tried and I can’t remember what my parents did or didn’t do that day. The old Lahore terminal had to ferry passengers via buses to the planes on the tarmac. Picture this, three little kids with heavy backpacks twice their size, winter jackets on, boarding a plane. Climbing those stairs was hard but we did it. My bag buckle got caught between the stairs and broke. Talk about a good start to an epic and long journey. Some how a hole the size of a nickel was burned into the arm of my jacket. I didn’t notice till we arrived in Canada. The flight was especially turbulent. I do remember that. Pakistan International Airlines hadn’t fully collapsed at that point but its notoriety as a failing government run airlines was well established. Honestly, which government airlines isn’t. Did I mention I cannot sleep in airplanes or buses at all? I end up watching movies for 12 hrs straight. I watched The Matrix for the first time on that flight. We landed at Pearson International at night. I remember after exiting the plane we somehow caught a glimpse of the airport crew unloading luggage from our plane. Dad quickly pointed to the 5 card boxes that held the summary of our lives from Pakistan.

Everyone packed their favorite thing. I packed an audio cassette of Elton John’s Candle in the Wind. He sang that Princess Diana’s funeral. Honestly, I wish there was an epic reasoning behind my choice, maybe a life analogy of up rooting our lives or burying a portion of my life to start a new chapter. Truth is, I just love the darn song very much. It was my cousin’s cassette. I remember begging him to let me take it. Collectively us brothers decided to bring a cricket bat along as well. Canadian customs broke it in two pieces straight down the middle. Apparently, they thought it was hollow, carrying drugs, or something. Collective sadness was expressed by us brothers. Speaking of customs breaking things in half at the airport, there was a person who also had a similar incident. He stood in line a few spots ahead of us. Tragically, his was a brand new, beautiful sitar. His face had nothing but pain and sorrow. I love airpots.

They hold a special place in my heart. They give me the pleasure of wonder and adventure. Watching movies on a plane is an exciting prospect that I look forward to with impatience. Browsing books no one will buy, maybe, is one of my cherished pleasures. I love airports. Correction, I loved airpots. Not today. Today, I hate them. On this day, sitting at the my cherished sanctuary of wonder, hope, and adventures, it is a gateway to a path I never want to travel. Before we left, my dad’s brother called. Grand ma was deteriorating. It was “time for us to be prepared” were his words. We may not make it in time was my dad’s worry. He was fighting his tears admirably. But, a few tears would escape his iron will now and then. Mom was quiet. She didn’t say much. Truly, today, airports are the worst thing in the world. Perhaps if they hadn’t existed we wouldn’t fly back home for this final goodbye and maybe we would’ve never left in the first place. Maybe grand ma would be okay if we were there. Everything in the world would be okay if airports didn’t exist. But, it wasn’t. I didn’t watch any people in the line today. I didn’t browse any books today. I didn’t watch any movies on the plane today.

All I could think of was how much I hated airports.

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