I was on a long convoluted flight from New Orleans back to Alaska that stopped in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and then eventually in Anchorage. So much for cheap tickets. I realized my cell phone was dying when I entered the boarding gate area. I had an hour to kill until my flight to Seattle, so I was eager to find a comfortable seat near the window without anyone near me. Unfortunately, every seat was taken and there were multiple phone chargers hanging from the charging pole, so basically I was out of luck. I spotted a vacant electrical outlet near the floor at the corner of the gate area and main aisle. It called my name so I threw down my bag and plopped my butt down on the floor and plugged in my phone. I’m an airport people watcher so this was a perfect spot right next to the main terminal hallway and across from a tourist trap trinket shop. I sat against the wall with my elbows on my knees, and watched all of the sloppy flip-flop-wearing-first-time-flyers traveling on a Sunday afternoon trying to get home.
Walking through the gate area I noticed this really hot woman sitting close to a business-type guy. I noticed her because she stood out in the gate area from the basketball-shorts-wife-beater-wearing-Priceline-ticket-traveler of today. I remembered the days when I traveled in slacks, sport coat, and tie and spent the entire flight in the Continental Airlines DC-10 pub. She was wearing a low-cut tight titty top that showed every nook and cranny of her magnificent breasts making every guy in the gate area want to dive into her Mariana Trench of cleavage. Her long tan legs glistened in the sunlight streaming through the window that vibrated a man’s cosmic consciousness into the siren song of emptying his wallet for that final lap-dance of life.
I was checking her out from afar when the guy she was snuggling on, got up, and motioned to her he needed to take this call. He walked from their snuggle spot across the terminal aisle and stood facing the glass window of a tourist shop expecting total privacy for his important call. He didn’t realize that his conversation bounced off the glass as if it was a parabolic lens focused at my exact spot. I heard his side of the conversation as if he was sitting next to me. It began like this. “I honey. I’m just about to board my flight from Chicago to Dallas any minute.” My mouth dropped open as the wave of “where the Hell am I” surged through my head. I had been there before on a multi-stop sleepless fiasco and suddenly realizing in the gate area didn’t know where I was or where I was going. But, I was conscious, and knew I was in San Francisco headed to Seattle. It said so on the boarding gate sign. My mouth snapped shut as I realized I was overhearing one of those calls. Oh snap!
There was a long moment of silence as the man’s posture changed and he got closer to the glass thus turning up my volume. His voice changed from successful business man to little boy pleading with his mother not to send him to his room to wait for his father to get home. “She’s only a friend. I did not sleep with her. I swear to you. Please believe me.” He pleaded for the next few minutes and I heard fear in his tone. He knew his father was coming home soon and he needed to beg his way out of this. He placed is arm over his head against the glass expecting to create the perfect cone of silence. But the volume went to eleven and I couldn’t turn it down. I felt sorry for this guy, but knew he was in for real trouble. A longer moment of silence, and finally in a conciliatory tone he said, “I’ll be home soon. I love you. See you soon.”
He snapped his phone shut, looked up and down the aisle, found his manhood, adjusted his pants, reinstalled his spine, stuck out his chest and swaggered back to the stunning women waiting for him. He sat down, I saw her mouth “Is everything okay?” He shook his head and gave her a brief kiss as I looked around to see if one of the pranked television shows was watching me to see my reaction to this drama. No cameras, no crew, just me and too many lies.
Suddenly, a woman who was sitting across from the snuggle couple jumps out of her seat and begins screaming. “No…, no…, no!” She whirled her arms up in the air and spun around a couple of times sobbing and screaming and finally throws her arms down to her side and screams “She’s dead” and crashes back down into her seat with her head in her hands burying it all in her lap. Not a person moved in the gate area for the next minute as eyes darted around from stranger to stranger wondering who was going to do something, or not. Finally, a middle-aged (obviously not a frequent traveler dressed in pedal-pushers and Crocs) woman from a nearby aisle got up and slowly walked over to the distraught woman and leaned over and quietly asked if she was okay. The woman sat up and screamed at the woman “No I’m not. She’s dead” and brushed her away. The good samaritan woman stepped back and returned to her seat as all of the hundreds of eyes in the gate area continued darting from traveler to traveler. No one moved. The sobbing woman with tears streaming down her face jumped up and kicked her luggage down the aisle between the row of frozen passengers. Still in the moment of grief or mental breakdown, she grabbed her luggage and hurled in into the main aisle of the terminal where it skittered across the carpet narrowly missing several travelers and bounced off the shop window across from me where mister snuggle puss told his lies. People hustling from gate to gate walked around the luggage not knowing what had just happened. All eyes were still on the woman as she realized her embarrassment, retrieved her luggage, and sat down in the main terminal aisle around the corner from me. I turned to my right to see her left arm less than two feet from me. My eyes got big as I looked up at the frozen first-time fliers and all of them looked back telling me with their eyes, “Dude, that psycho girl’s gonna kill you.” A quick gate announcement blared thorough the terminal and all frozen passengers looked away to check their tickets, and the incident was forgotten.
She sat with her back against the wall facing the terminal aisle with her knees up near her face and continued sobbing. I’m not that compassionate of a guy and don’t have that much experience consoling people, but there’s a stranger less than two feet from me obviously in a lot of pain. I couldn’t just do nothing. I leaned up near her arm and quietly said, “Are you alright?” Immediately, she scooted around the corner and planted herself right next to me, tightly wrapping her left arm around my right arm as if we were going for a stroll from which I would never return. She grabbed my right hand with her other hand placing it on my knee and lowered her head on to her hand holding on me as tightly as she possible could while she cried for a few more minutes.
The hard crying slowly stopped and she loosened the grip on my arm. She took my right hand in both of her hands and held it tightly. Fearing for my life as this point, I again asked if she was alright. She put her head on my shoulder and quietly said, “I’m okay.” She continued, “I’m embarrassed about what just happened. I’m sorry I may have frightened you. But, my friend just died.” She went on to tell me she was going to Portland to see her friend who was having a baby that day. She received the phone call in the gate area telling her that her friend died in childbirth minutes before.
For the next hour, she told me her story of her sexually abusive father, her previous horrible boy friends, her job that was not working out, her attempts at grad school, and her difficult decision to leave her current boy friend when she returned from Portland. When it was all said and done, I too was crying and holding her tightly. We were in our own little stranger world bubble on the floor of San Francisco airport waiting for our flights to Seattle and Portland. No one else existed during that hour as I was drawn into the drama of her life.
My gate announcement came as an abrupt awakening. I told her I had to go, and gave her one of my business cards if she wanted to stay in touch to let me know how all of her challenges worked out. We stood up and she gave me one of the strongest hugs I have ever had. It was as if I was her knight in shining armor whom she had loved forever and now I was going off to war maybe never to return. The hug lasted for an eternity until the second gate call. I said goodbye, wiped the final tears from my face and turned and walked to the plane never knowing her name and never hearing from her again.