Some four hours to go here at Atlanta International Airport until my UK bound flight departs. Four hours to kill.
I've already walked around the various retail offerings scattered around terminal E and terminal D. I purchased a magazine and came here to the central concourse area of Terminal E to have a Starbucks coffee and sit in a comfortable chair.
It's new years day. The year is now 2002. I'm going home, or at least I am going to the place I live. I suppose I've yet to lay my hat somewhere and call it home. Boston feels like home. When I flew there just this last week it felt like coming home as I landed at the now so familiar Logan International Airport. Maybe one day it will be home? Who knows?
So what shall I do for the next four hours? I've got my headphones on and I'm listening to music by Brian Eno. I believe that this particular album is called something like 'Music for Airports'. An apt choice more by chance than design.
I'm sitting right on the edge of a large seated area. I managed to get a comfortable armchair vacated by a suited lady just as my White Chocolate Mocha was ready. In front of me across the concourse a deserted information desk below a clock. It's six thirty-three.
Fake trees line the brightly lit expanse before me. People walk in all directions, some slowly, some fast. A man approaches the information desk and looks around hoping to attract the attention of someone who might be able to offer him some... information. No one is there though, but still, he waits. It's six thirty-seven.
Have you ever just stopped and looked at the people around you in a busy place? All of them strangers. Everyone here is on a journey of some sort I suppose. For example, these two girls stood just in front of me. One is talking and looking at her watch while the other searches her bag for something. She can't find it, much to the frustration of the other. They move on. The one girl still looking through her pockets for whatever it is she can't find. I hope she finds it. Meantime, the man at the information desk still waits, and still, no one comes.
"Meet me at the concourse junction" was what the woman I am now looking at was probably told by someone. She's dressed for a vacation and scratches her head nervously while scouring the food hall behind me for a familiar face. She looks excited, she's going somewhere warm I would guess. Not very tanned, but dressed to catch any sun rays that might still be around at this time. Her face lights up. Her friend has arrived, they embrace, they hold each other and say a few words then embrace again. She doesn't notice him look at his watch behind her back while they embrace. Timing is so important in a place like this I suppose. It's six forty-seven.
A man with a long face cleans the floors. He hates his job, or so it seems. He works very slowly, he looks lost in this place that he probably could navigate his way around in his sleep. He's old. I wonder if he has been anywhere on a plane recently. He seems so sad, he looks like he could use a break. Who knows, maybe next week he'll win the lottery? Life wouldn't be worth all the hassle if not for the surprises along the way, be them good or bad, at the very least they make things interesting. He shuffles on, no one else notices him.
A boy and his father wander past. Both look excited. Maybe they have an adventure before them. A couple of female cabin crew members glide past in an aromatic blur, their hair near perfect and made up to look like models from some glossy magazine. They pass a single guy weighed down with luggage, he can't help but turn and take another look, smiling an 'if only' smile to himself as he makes his way in the opposite direction. It's six fifty-nine.
I never thought I could feel so relaxed in an airport. The music plays through my headphones and I just sit here watching the world go by. I feel like I am looking at some postmodernist work of video art. So many people, so many journeys being made, so many stories to be told. I wish I could pause this scene and like some interactive artwork just click on a character to learn more about them.
Take this guy for instance. He's carrying a briefcase, laptop bag, suit bag and talking on a mobile phone. He's walking briskly and passes a girl in a red shirt who is doing quite the opposite. She is not walking, she is meandering. Eating a Hagen Das ice cream and by the looks of things, she's enjoying it. No hurry for her. It's six minutes past seven.
I'm always sad to leave America. Usually, I find a quiet corner in some deserted departure lounge, sit there alone and just let time wash over me until I hear the call for my flight, at that point, I make my leisurely way to the designated gate. I dislike being herded, and avoid it wherever possible. Sitting right by the gate has always seemed a little pointless to me.
Finally, someone has come to staff the information desk. Immediately someone stops to ask them a question, and another person lines up right behind them. Two national guards walk slowly through the scene with machineguns in hand. Hideous life-ending weapons among a sea of bright colors and name brands.
Behind me, a gaggle of people in the food court throw a basketball among their group as an old lady looks disapprovingly over her glasses at them. They don't see her.
Between them, these passengers will fly many hundreds of thousands of miles tonight. I'd love to know a little more about some of these people. I'd love to get into their heads and see what they are thinking, where they've been, where they're going. I'd love to hear some of their stories as I get to see the smallest clip of their journey tonight.
A single man sits in an armchair facing out over the concourse. He's wearing headphones and looks engrossed in his laptop between intervals of stillness when he simply sits there and watches this bit of the world pass before him in Atlanta Airport. That's me.