I love airports. Many people don’t I think. I have never conducted a scientific study to determine that statement, yet I think most people view them as a necessary evil. There is the whole dealing with security and the inevitable lines as you get shuffled through the process. Until you finally find your seat on the plane, and then wishing and praying you sit next to an interesting person (at least that is what I wish for, I know others probably wish they don’t sit next to me, since I may actually talk to them for a bit and get to know them). Prior to getting on the plane people are always busy moving about seeking their gate, a magazine for the flight, a loved one that is returning home, or getting in that last bathroom break that doesn’t involve an aisle walk.
I am not saying I am not busy doing all of those things as well. I mean I literally give myself the absolute minimum time needed to make the flight, so I am definitely that guy who is running with a laptop on my shoulder to catch a plane. That sort of gets me to my point actually.
In many airports when rushing off to your gate you have the option of speeding up your walk by walking on a moving walkway, or if you are not rushing you can just stand and relax as you get moved along to your destination, or at least the next walkway.
Next time you have the opportunity, instead of just walking up to the moving walkway and stepping on it, I suggest you give yourself a little kick start and jump onto the walkway. Obviously your technique is up to you, but I prefer the surfer stance on landing (arms out and everything). Not only is it fun to get a running start, but it applies a very important principle that many of us forget.
Having fun and being silly is an extremely important act, and one that not only brings us personal joy, but brings joy to others as well. Every time I landed my surfer pose on one of those walkways I was sure to see someone smile or laugh to themselves a little. Did they think I was a fool? Sure. Maybe. Maybe they wished they had jumped on the walkway instead of walking by it.
An airport is one of the greatest collections of different types of people assembled for a very small amount of time. In most cases these people never communicate, interact, or participate with anyone other than the people they came with. Maybe they order lunch, or ask the stewardess for something, but most of the time they do their best to keep the interaction to a minimum.
Each and every one of these people have a story, talents, desires, family, friends, dreams, and accomplishments. Millions of interesting people pour through airports every single day and almost none of them interact. I would be willing to bet that in one airport, on a single day, any person there could find dozens of people that have similar interests, dreams, and hobbies. Yet they will walk right past each other and go to their separate gates, and most likely will never see each other again.
With social networks people are virtually connecting to one another every day, yet in an airport all of these people are already assembled. They are just too busy to do anything about it, and have no idea the collection of talents, ideas, dreams, and knowledge that walks by them, or even sits next to them.
This isn’t a pitch for an airport social network. Don’t worry. It is a suggestion however to open your eyes and look around at the amazing world that surrounds you. Talk to the person next to you. Just a simple, “where are you headed” maybe is enough to make a connection with a stranger. We are all people seeking different things, but together we can do wonderful things. If there was a crisis (asteroid, alien attack, you know standard stuff), and all we had was one airport on a busy day, I could guarantee the collection of knowledge and talent in that one location would be able to solve any issue that arose. This applies to not just airports, but any place where large amounts of people come together, whether it is a mall, shopping districts, train station, sporting events, or theaters. You are surrounded by thousands of stories, talent, and knowledge. Once in awhile dip your toe in that pool of knowledge and talent, and say hello to a stranger. You never know who you will meet, and what role they will play in your life. Trust in your path is something I always say and remind myself throughout life. Yet if you walk along it blindly you will never see your path as it should be. You must open your eyes and heart to the rest of the world, and the people in it. An airport is a good place to do this, and even though most encounters will never last beyond that moment in time, that moment in time is still important.
When the woman smiles from you leaping onto some moving walkway, she may just treat the next person she sees a little bit better that day. That person then may do the same, and if every person we meet along our path, we treated with respect and an interest that all people deserve, well then maybe the world will become even smaller, friendlier, more connected, and a better place to live.
Not all of you will want to be silly or a chatterbox like me, but the smallest acts of kindness or silliness go a long way. I enjoy making people smile. It is something I strive to do every day. Being silly is one way to do that. The other way may be to take an interest in someone, because you sincerely care about that random stranger. That stranger may be your next love, or business partner, or someone to save your life, or to give you advice, or just someone to pass the time with, but they are someone worth trying to make smile, and they are worth knowing. Everyone has a name and a story. The world is an interesting place and you are but one story line in it. Explore the other stories that make up the world and the people that make them. An airport is a great place to start. Happy travels.