Entry #10: ...people come and go...


Last night I went to the San Francisco airport with my parents. We were there to meet my Uncle Dennis, Aunt Ivy and cousin June who were flying in from Vancouver. Uncle Dennis is my father's younger brother and even though they talk to each other all that much during the year, when the holidays come around either we go to Vancouver to visit them, or they come to San Francisco to see us.

Since my father always insists on getting to the airport at least a half hour before we need to be there, we had lots of time to wait. I had my journal with me so I decided to walk around a bit and see if I could write some "word sketches" of the people who were coming and going. (A word sketch is like a photograph taken of something as it whizzes past... except you use a few words instead of film. So the idea is to "catch" some part of the essence of a person you don't know, just by observing them for a moment and writing something about what you observed. My English teacher last year taught us how to do it. It's actually fun.)

I opened my journal, sat on the gray carpet with my back against one of those enormous pillars and watched the people coming and going. Everyone was in such a hurry they didn't notice me staring at them as they passed, which was good. That way I could catch them without them noticing I was watching them. Here's what I saw and heard:

A bearded man with a red turban leans against a nearby pillar in the TWA terminal. He's swaying and chanting. The turban is the only thing traditional about him (not counting the chanting, of course.) Otherwise he looks like a regular guy, wearing jeans and a back pack. He's also got a quilted jacket to protect him from the cold. His chanting probably protects him from the evils of the world.

A woman with long corkscrew curls lounges by the pay phones. She's wearing burgundy slacks and matching burgundy jacket and leans against a guitar case while talking on the phone. She's laughing and moving her free hand as if the person on the other end can actually see her. I wonder who she's talking to? Her mother, boyfriend, roommate?

The businessman using the phone beside Blondie is in a gray trench coat. His hair is thinning and as he speaks, stress lines his face. He balances the receiver awkwardly between his ear and his shoulder. There's a white paper coffee cup on the ledge and he takes notes on the back of an envelope.

A girl with unlikely red hair bops by, carrying a little walk-man, her head wired for sound.

An overweight woman with frizzy gray hair talks to her equally pudgy husband. They compare tickets with a young woman who appears to be their daughter, though she is a head taller than either of them, with long straight blond hair.

"Your attention please. Change in Gate Assignments... Continental Airlines Flight 156 to Cleveland will now depart from Gate 32."

An African American woman, lugging two suitcases and a shoulder bag seems to be walking on tired feet stuffed into too tight shoes.

It's already 11:20 pm. People are looking really tired.

Two Hispanic men walk by.

"Remmy Bartemko... Remmy Bartemko to the white courtesy telephone, please."

An Asian guy in glasses seems to be in a big hurry.

Airports are always a place of comings and goings. Saying hello. Saying good-bye.

If you just looked at the feet you'd think that everyone in the world is now wearing running shoes. Backpacks are very popular too. People on the run want to be able to get to their ultimate destination quickly and be able to carry whatever they can on their backs while keeping their hands free for... who knows what?

"TWA Flight number 209 has just landed. Passengers will be disembarking through Jetway 28."

A very serious and intellectual looking African American woman strides by with long long braids all over her head. She must be a college professor, or at the very least, a graduate student.

There are a bunch of excited kids running around. If they were home it would be way past their bedtimes, but because they are in an airport they are jazzed. Maybe their parents actually succeeded in getting them to take a nap this afternoon. Clearly they are on their second or third power burst of the day.

When my father's brother arrives with his family there are lots of squeals and shouts and hugs and kisses. The grown-ups are very happy to see each other and everyone is talking at once. My little cousin June is so cute, but she's a bit shy with me. I get the feeling that we're going to be friends anyway, though it may take a day or two.

On the way home, in the back seat of the darkened car, June falls asleep with her head leaning against my arm. As we pass underneath the freeway lights her sweet face is lit up. Her skin is smooth as a doll's and her too long bangs making a curtain over her little eyebrows.




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