The mechanical sound of a pump startles me from a blank stare. I turn around quickly to see an elderly man with a breathing tube inserted up his nostrils. He carries his oxygen tank in tow, his weathered wife pushes him along. Behind them is a pair of very loud, somewhat rude teens speaking some very animated spanish. They seem to be passionate about something. They spatter their conversation with a few distinct english swear words.
I regain my focus on… On, something. I have no real challenging thoughts this early Sunday morning. I look up to stark contrast. To my right is a young couple in love, giggling, touching and in a playful mood. They make me smile. Remind of the excitement of new love. Always so hopeful and innocent.
“STOP IT!” breaks my somewhat inappropriate stare.
“Sit down! Now!” Screams a young mom at her 3 or 4 year old little girl. Perfectly done pigtails, a cute plaid dress and the still reddish tinged cheeks from either the cold wind or perhaps a recently finished crying fit.
Many of us in line focus our attention on this obviously stressed mother. I think to myself how hard it must be for a mom to travel alone with a child. To have to balance everything. The tickets, the carry on bags, the stroller and the continuously dropped ratty old teddy bear. Did I mention that she had a new born baby strapped to her in one of those organic baby slings.
“Will you please help, for god sakes!” She finally says in frustration.
She’s not alone, the father of the little girls I assume. Maybe the husband, maybe the boyfriend. He turns away from his unabashed stare of the very attractive young girl just ahead of him.
“What?” he says with a roll of his eyes and a clear level of disinterest in his voice. Reluctantly he tells the older child to sit down in her stroller, playing his father roll that is “expected” of him.
My eyes wander back to the young couple, still very much in love. How long ago was that married couple with children like that? In love, excited about their future?
I am nudged from behind. Shaken from my work of fiction that I am creating in my head.
“Buddy, can you move up?” suggests a guy in business suit, obviously numb to the world around him. Horse blinders on, blackberry in his hand, nothing maters to him except, well, him.
While in my few moments of deep observation I had stopped paying attention to the people ahead of me. The line had moved up, maybe 10 feet. Better be more aware of the number of grey spotted tiles between me and shoes in front of me.
A hacking cough again steals my focus. An elderly woman coughs into her wrinkled hands. She looks tired, worn and not at all excited about the prospect of going through the lengthy line.
“Why do I have to take off my shoes? They take forever to put back on. You know they’re orthopaedic” She says with a real sense of disapproval.
“When I was young flying was magical. You knew you were bound for adventure. You were treated like royalty. Not today, not anymore.”
There’s a pause. Then I realize she is speaking to me. I look down at her. Her face quickly tells a tale of a long and full life. Full of carved lines created by laughter and sunken eyes perhaps attributed to sadness or loss. I am sure she could fill up a week of my time with stories, lessons and wisdom.
“Yes, yes you’re right.” I reply. “It’s much more of an inconvenience today. Although, I guess this is the world we live in now. Can’t do much about it.”
She grunts back at me. An agreeable grunt, but a grunt none-the-less. We stand quietly, shuffling along. I am mindful of my ‘buddy’ behind me. Don’t want to slow him down.
We stand side-by-side now, like I am traveling with her. I look around me. Heads down. Almost all of them. The whole line. Fully connected to the mini-computers in their hand. Updating their profile status, tweeting their departure times, reading the “news feed”, texting a friend who is still asleep. It seems they are all unaware of the life going on all around them in this line. Like part of the herd, I glance at my iPhone, blank. no messages. No one wishing me well on my flight. Still to early to text anyone.
I place my phone back in my pocket. I look down at my line-mate.
“Dorothy.” She puts her hand on my arm and gives it a little squeeze. “My name is Dorothy. My friends call me Dot. Where are you off to?”
Life happens all around us. Usually we think our life is the most important. I guess it should be in many respects. We get caught up in our problems, our celebrations. We rarely seem to see the other stuff. We don’t pay attention to the people who are beside us. Look up from the iPhone, blink and break our stares. Participate in the world.
“Prince Edward Island. PEI.”
“What are you doing there? Going home? Work? Vacation?” she pushes the conversation further.
“I’m going for work. Just a few days.” I reply.
“What do you do dear?”
“It’s a bit of long story” I quickly say with a smile.
“Well it looks as if we have some time.” We both look down the long snake like line leading to security. She winks and grins a warm grin.
“Well Dorothy…” she stops me quickly. “My friends call me Dot I told you.”
“Right! Well Dot I am a speaker and a bit of an author…”
Life is beautiful.