For an author, an airport is an amazing place.
First of all, everywhere you look people are reading books. Actual books, with covers and pages and everything. No matter where you are in an airport, there is someone, within ten feet of you, reading. There are entire stores devoted to words... magazines, books, newspapers. It is incredible and validating and a wonderful place to be.
An airport is amazing because you encounter people outside of your normal scope of everyday life. Situations and emotions too, for that matter. I live in a small Midwestern town, where most people look and think and act the same. In an airport, I am suddenly surrounded by a diverse world of sights and sounds. Immediately my brain kicks into storytelling gear.
For example, yesterday while I hastily ate chicken strips at the gate, I tried to figure out the story behind the threesome of college aged kids sitting across from me Were the girls sisters? Friends? Twins? Teammates? I compared their chins, their eyes. Probably sisters, I decided. Next question. Was one of the girls dating the boy? I thought so. She leaned toward him a bit more than the other girl and flashed her phone screen his way a bit more often. Where are they going? Why? Are they headed home or on some fun adventure? I didn’t have time to invent their story before my loading zone was called to board the plane.
And before that, while I waited in line for the aforementioned chicken strips, a woman said determinedly to a boy "Well you are hungry enough. We'll find something you like.” The boy looked like fast food was a foreign concept and proceeded to ask many questions. Behind me, a teenage girl complained to her mom on the phone that she had never ridden on such a small plane, not even when she rode from Austria to Prague. What stories lay behind these comments? How had their previous experiences impacted this small moment I witnessed in their lives?
So many people, from so many different places, all crammed into this one building. Limited space and a small likelihood of future interactions with these strangers lowers privacy inhibitions. Questions that would normally seem invasive, are permitted. Where are you from? Are you travelling for business or pleasure? What are you reading? What do you do for a living?
An Elvis impersonator, with wispy black hair and a guitar to boot. The cadence of accents from all over the world, inside a single space. Fandoms of all sports and states, colorfully dotting the escalators. A TSA employee singing me an old song about my destination (Scranton, PA) and a semi-load of bananas that once spilled down the city’s large hill. Within the walls of an airport bodies are full of motion and purpose, and it is all on display for an author to muse and capture. Character studies, emotion analysis, creative storytelling. All of it, right there for the taking, at the airport.