a unique perspective on this crazy world

At some point I may actually finish my thoughts on my last trip to London but I have been working every minute to get to this point so no time for fun stuff like writing.  I am sitting in Terminal B of Frankfurt airport as I write this.  It’s almost 11am in Germany, 2am for me and I got more or less zero sleep on the ugly flight over.  No crush on Lufthansa.  Not quite sure why I couldn’t choose my seat ahead or why they changed it to the worst seat on the plane I think, amidst crying babies with not even a seat pocket to call my own.

But now I am here… in one of the many airports I know like a second home.  This one is likely the most special one for me.  A lot of interesting events in my life have transpired as I transited through Frankfurt airport.  I’ve never even been to Frankfurt.  But this airport…  I knew we would be landing in Terminal B and I would have to transfer to A.  I noted the really cool boutique where I once bought a pair of shoes now has an accessories shop as well.  Apparently I am not the only one who shops at the airport 🙂

I think some people find airports stressful… or boring… I do enjoy the final destination more but I am rarely grumpy in an airport.  And love just watching the action while I wait for my flight… airports are never dull.  Why I have a soft spot for the film Love ActuallyFour Weddings and a Funeral in my top ten but it was what Richard Curtis said about airports that really resonated with me… especially about airports and love stories…

I don’t make it a policy to date long distance… it just seems to happen… so I definitely know about airports and love stories… it’s one of those tales that is the reason I am in Frankfurt this time but that story will be told a bit later when its storyline has been satisfied.  Right now I am thinking of other airports and other stories…

The very first airport I ever entered was in Winnipeg.  And I was flying to Ottawa.  On my own.  I was a teenager and it was my first flight ever.  It was exciting and scary all at the same time.  Luckily for me, they were both super easy airports.  No one brandishing a gun at me who didn’t speak English very well.

plane landing serengeti

That was in Kilimanjaro.  Last year.  The point at which I thought airports were a piece of cake and if you dropped me off at one, all I had to do was follow the signs to get from the domestic terminal to the international terminal.

And had I been in Dar-es-Salaam it likely would have worked that way.  But Kili is a small airport, international only because of all the tourists flocking in to climb Kilimanjaro or see the Serengeti.  The tour company had offered to take care of me but I knew that would not be happening for free and I thought it would be dead easy…

Not so much… getting dropped off was easy and it was clear I was in the domestic “terminal”… but there were no signs for the international terminal where I was supposed to be going to catch my flight to Amsterdam.  And I had hours to kill…

I asked at least five different people, following the directions I got without any success… which is how I decided to walk around the building to the other side.  But that’s when the guy pulled the gun on me so I didn’t push it and went back to try for a sixth time.

And finally – success!  I DID need to walk around to the other side of the building – but I had to go THROUGH the building via an unmarked maze rather than follow the perimeter.  There was no lounge or duty free shop and they didn’t open the small, non-air-conditioned holding area until about an hour before the flight.  So I ended up on a cultural adventure.  There  were two open air spots outside to hang out and wait.  I had a packed lunch from my luxury tour company so I ate that and ordered a local beer.

The price came down each time I ordered another as I became a “local” instead of a tourist and I observed people coming and going.  It was fascinating.  It became obvious why I had confused everyone trying to find the international terminal.  Little white girls did not just wander around the airport on their own…  All the white people came and went in packs, wearing their shiny new safari gear, led by their local guide, until he had placed them safely on the plane.  More interesting were the local people who showed up, dressed for a special excursion, sipping Coca Cola out of vintage glass bottles and talking on their mobile phones.

Hanging out at the airport isn’t always such a fascinating cultural experience and many of my best memories are tied together with the early stages of grand passions.

My new NYC investment banker boyfriend driving my car to the airport on his first visit to Vancouver.  We were so wrapped up in our passionate good-bye I forgot he had my car keys!  So, just as he was about to go through security, I yelled, “you have my keys!”  In those moments in life you are oblivious to the greater world but obviously some people had been watching because, as he handed me my keys, the guy at the gate said, “you’re going to have to kiss her again now.”  And we obliged 😉

Equally memorable was my sprint through Frankfurt airport almost ten years ago.  It was the kind of passionate affair you know can only really last in a bubble and isn’t a realistic view of romance unless you think you are a vampire 🙂  But it’s really worth feeling like that at least once or twice in your life.

It was another long distance thing so he could only meet me in Vancouver for a few days after my business trip to Germany so getting on the plane seemed critical.  First he called me long distance from North America to make sure I didn’t miss my wake-up call… when we got to Frankfurt the plane was late and it looked likely I would miss my flight… but if I ran at high speed through the airport I just might make it.  And I did.  And seeing him smiling and sweeping me off my feet at the final destination made the airport marathon totally worth it.

I totally appreciate that I have watched too many films.  I treasure a dramatic arrival or departure.  I spend most of my time in airports alone watching the human condition.  But being one of the stories to watch.  Anyone can have a moment worthy of the cinema.  I think some of it is the magic of climbing into a giant bird and flying vast kilometers in a way that until about 100 years ago seemed as impossible as a man on the moon.

Sure it’s cool to send your mother in North America a text to tell her you have arrived safely in Tanzania.  But it lacks all the drama and romance of your actual arrival and departure from Kilimanjaro International Airport.  Armchair traveling will never compare to hearing the wheels roll up or down and the plane glide into the air or clunk onto the ground.  And then navigating your way through the maze of people and services that will take you from the plane through the airport into the real world.  And, if you’re lucky, someone will be waiting at one end to scoop you up and kiss you just like they do in the movies.  Keep it dramatic – but not gross… and you will be the envy of the other passengers 🙂

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