People watching – passing time at the airport
I flew to Sydney this week to attend a business seminar. I had not been on an aeroplane for almost two years, which is a new record for me. I started reminiscing about all of my travels and then it occurred to me that it has been 10 years since I first ventured out into the big wide world that was my first trip to Europe.
No psychology degree needed here
Think the opening and closing scenes of the film Love Actually where a montage of clips are shown of people greeting each other at what I assume to be Heathrow airport. One does not need a psychology degree to understand human interaction and behaviour. You can educate yourself for free at an airport. Airports present a wonderful opportunity to people watch. There is a heightened intensity of emotions in travellers and it can bring out all of their nervous habits and ugliest obsessions. An airport is a melting pot of people from all different cultures, class structures and occupations; varieties of wealth and personalities. I rarely read or listen to music while waiting to board a flight because I prefer to people watch. Six years ago while waiting to board a plane at Heathrow airport to Canada, had I become engrossed in a book or magazine I would have missed a sighting of my favourite singer Belinda Carlisle being escorted to what I assume a more private environment in the airport. Of course hardly anyone recognised her as she walked through the terminal but I certainly did.
It’s just plane fascinating and marvellous
I also find it fascinating watching planes land and take off. I could sit in an airport lounge or in the window seat of a plane watching aeroplanes land and take off all day long. There is something whimsical about watching an aeroplane take off to an international destination. On board sits a group of passengers each with different motives, goals and desires as to why they boarded the plane in the first place. I always wonder why people have to fly interstate or internationally – is it to see someone they love, go to a funeral, attend a business event or start a new life? I know who I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going and when I’m coming back. 10 years ago I was an extremely nervous 23 year old whose childhood dream was about to come true. I like to observe how people act at airports and try and think about their lives.
I still marvel at the fact that an aircraft has the capacity to travel such long distances. Los Angeles to Sydney is a straight, painful 14 hour journey. Before the aircraft takes off, I always think of the fact that it is about to leave one country only to arrive in another country. You can leave one destination been able to speak English and navigate yourself easily to arrive at another destination with a completely different set of customs, rituals, language and culture. It really is an amazing world we live in.
I thought I was waiting for my sister to arrive at the airport. Not racing Michael Schumacher at the Spanish Grand Prix
On the couple of occasions I have waited at the international arrival area of Melbourne airport to pick up my sister, I enjoyed observing the many travellers, who have just disembarked from their aircraft, often weary eyed and jet lagged, walk through those large doors to be greeted by their patient, loved ones. There is a wonderful atmosphere in the air when one is surrounded by hoards of people waiting in anticipation and excitement in the arrival area only moments away from seeing their visitors arrive. Every time the automatic doors open, people are eagerly searching and scanning to see if it will be their loved ones that are about to walk through the doors. Heads and faces turn and some people even push their way to the front of the barriers as if they were Michael Schumacher waiting in poll position to race in the Grand Prix.
Some people go to the effort of bringing large banners, flags and balloons to welcome home their international visitors. When one walks through those large, automatic doors after clearing customs it can be very overwhelming as there are so many people looking at you. The eyes are searching for any sign of familiarity but once they do, just watch their eyes and face light up. I know as I have been on the other end walking through those doors many times myself. Especially after a number of years abroad without seeing my family and friends.
Why oh why does Australia have to be located, as one ex Prime Minister so elegantly stated, ‘the arse end of the world?’
The distance and kilometres between Australia and the rest of the world is one of the reasons why I believe the international arrival area of an airport is so electrically charged with emotion and anticipation. When I do observe people finally greeting each other I wonder how long it has been since they saw each other. Generally for most backpackers and travellers, it has been an extended period of time, even years. Unless of course you are Richard Branson who can afford to fly to a destination such as Australia just for afternoon tea, travelling abroad to and from Australia is not the sort of travel experience the average person takes lightly as it usually involves a fair amount of planning and saving. For me, it took 10 years to plan and save for my first overseas adventure.
Which brings me to my next point. Planning and deciding where to go for my next overseas destination. The thinking cap is on.
Dear reader, are you a people watcher at the airport?