It wasn’t that I loved planes, per say, or even that I loved airports, or flying, or small cups of ginger ale and tiny packages of peanuts.
It was the people. That feeling you get waiting in a gate, when you look around and see the complete and utter clusterfuck of people milling and sitting and iPhoning. You feel like they’re all so important, like they must all be so important to someone out there. Why else would they be flying, right? From the strictly business woman attached to her Blackberry and diet coke to the teenager picking at his braces. You’re surrounded by complete strangers who are probably nothing like you and yet—they’re sitting in the same shitty pleather chairs, or walking on the same shitty carpet, or staring out the same huge window. They’re all waiting on the same thing you are—a huge metal bird to take them away from this place to somewhere new. It doesn’t mean excitement—I’m sure as hell never flying to Paris or anything. But still. They’re getting the hell out of DFW and landing somewhere else entirely (even if it is just Houston). Maybe it’s just for the weekend. Shit, maybe it’s just for the day. But still. They’re there with their neck pillows and briefcases and carry-ons and they heard “Please have your ID’s and boarding passes out and ready!” just as many times as you did. And it’s just fascinating. Of course, other people think I’m a little crazy. You might be one of those people. But think about it. Just really stop and think about it.
It’s the best place to people-watch. Great yellow purse. Hideous red dress. What is he thinking with that toupee? Is she serious with that green lipstick? Oh. My. God. Now that is a beautiful man. Oh, and three beautiful children. Dammit.
The easiest place to have something in common with someone. “Oh, your flight to Austin was delayed? Yeah, same with mine to Phoenix. Why do they never seem to have their shit together here?”
The best place to eavesdrop. “I just couldn’t believe her. I’m disgusted,” the woman next to me whispered. Did she know she was still very audible? “Not only did she admit to the cellophane thing, but when she brought the peanut butter out, she had the chocolate syrup too! Sick freak. That’s the last time I find a roommate on Craigslist.”
The best place to completely be yourself without giving a shit what anyone thinks. After all, they’re about to hop on a plane and be thousands of miles away from you. I’ve literally sat and sobbed for hours waiting for a flight to LaGuardia. No one judged me, no one really even gave me a second look. I appreciate the level everyone is on in airports. There’s a “Do whatever the fuck you want as long as you’re not smuggling bombs” unwritten rule that I, and millions of others, I’m sure, take full advantage of. I’ve seen a chick shave her legs in a tiny bathroom sink. I’ve seen a man sit in the food court, take off his suit jacket, and start preparing his drag outfit, presumably to fit the needs of his next destination. It’s brilliant!
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface—I haven’t even mentioned the part where you actually board the plane. That’s where the real fun begins. Sure, I’ve had boring flights. Flights where I don’t sit next to anyone, flights I sleep through, flights everyone but me sleeps through. But more often than not, I walk away with a great story about the person grazing elbows with me.
So one day, I decided to start recording. It was just a silly thing at first, like a “funny quotes” page. Then it turned into more of a journal. Then I started blogging. And then I got the phone call. Did I want to write a book?
I had written a few “serious” posts, you know, the sort of posts that actually used a bit of my Journalism degree. One was about a 65-year-old man flying to meet his old high school sweetheart after they reconnected on Facebook. Another was about a 12-year-old girl who gave me two hours of an incessant rant about flying across the country every other holiday now that her parents were divorced. But most of my blogs were ridiculous; only meant to leave a reader rolling on the ground, pitying me for sitting next to such a catastrophe of a person. One in particular was about my eight-hour flight to Honolulu for my sister’s destination wedding (unless you’re loaded and therefore going to pay, please don’t do this to your friends and family) in which I sat in between two overweight men, both drinking mai tais like they were shots of water.