For the past 4 years, I’ve worked at a company where I’m fortunate to travel often for business and pleasure. This means I’ve gone to random places like St. Louis and Atlanta, and incredible places like Italy, San Francisco, and the UK. I also spent a summer dating someone from Brooklyn - so I became familiar with the LaGuardia experience. No matter where I was going, I always made a point to arrive to the airport 2.5 hours early (except for domestic flights - I’m not an animal).
I’d like to blame my mother for my incessant need to be everywhere early. But, truthfully, I just really like drinking wine with strangers. There’s a very specific type of bliss that comes from getting through security successfully, finding your gate, then setting up camp at the bar to drink wine and strike up conversation with whoever is open to it.
I usually get lucky and chat with one person before it’s time to board my flight. The conversation typically starts up over a mutual criticism of the tablets from which we’re supposed to order. In my experience, the older generations have a really hard time navigating the UI. The majority of my conversations start by them asking me how to use it - I happily guide them through, while making remarks that it’s no wonder they can’t figure it out.
On one of my trips to NYC, there were a bunch of delays leaving Pearson (shocker). I had two hours to kill, so my flight was unaffected, but it meant everyone else was a bit stressed out. I staked out my place at the bar, and ordered a $14 glass of wine.
The first woman who asked me for help was middle-aged and was also trying to get to NYC. We drank wine together, and she asked how I had come to be dating someone from Brooklyn. She told me about her job as a corporate trainer, and how she had been in Southern Ontario all week bouncing from one hotel conference room to another (I gave her my deepest condolences). She was eager to arrive to NYC early so she could drive up to Connecticut for the weekend (it was a Friday afternoon). She thanked me for the convo - then was off.
Filling her seat next was another middle-aged woman, who immediately engaged in conversation. She moved over so she was sitting right beside me, and had me navigate the tablet to order her ‘whatever I was drinking’. She was a chef and restaurant owner from San Antonio, and was racing to get home to see her son off to prom. Her flight was three hours delayed by the time we starting chatting, and she slowly resigned herself to the idea that she would miss the special occasion. In lieu of an in-person send-off, she FaceTimed her son - a conversation I was happily pulled into. We wished him and his date a fun night, before ordering our second glass. We chatted about this and that for a while, and then it was my turn to pay up, and head to my gate. Before I left, the woman asked me to please tell my mum that she raised me well (I may have given her the rest of my wine). I messaged my mum, showed the woman as proof, and hugged her goodbye. She handed me her card, demanding I visit her if I was ever in Texas.
Two hours was all it took for me to have two interesting conversations with two strangers. These conversations were in no way life changing – but they were a nice reminder to stay in the present. Being present reminds us to notice what's happening around us, and to engage in it. And that engagement is by far one of my favourite things about travelling. It may surprise you, but I’m not actually a very social or extroverted person. I typically keep to myself when around strangers, and all of my friends would attest it takes me a bit of time to warm up to people. But there’s just something about an airport that brings people together - for better or worse - to engage in out of the ordinary experiences. Also, the wine helps.