I get to the airport a couple of hours before my flight is supposed to leave and begin having fun right away. As I check-in downstairs, the lady who manages the line for check-in says “Hello”, and smiles at me. She isn’t bossy or cross. The man in the purple shirt behind the counter is very helpful too. He doesn’t give me the won’t-you-people-just-be-patient look, but helps me to get my security pass even if he is a little serious. There isn’t a line through security at all. I arrive to the gate and am given the option of catching an earlier flight. Both of the Southwest employees I am talking to about my ticket are so nice and smile and laugh as they are helping me. The heart-shaped logo with wings on their shirts makes me feel like they care about me a little more. I know this is sounding like an advertisement that you’d only see on TV, but I swear all of it is true. I am listed no problem for my standby flight. I must mention that I find it incredible that I have not had to be bumped off of a single flight in the four that I have taken this summer so far. Amazing!
After I get my flight stuff squared away, I call AT&T to ask them why my voice mail password isn’t working. The lady on the phone is the nicest, friendliest phone representative I have EVER talked to. She asks me in a genuine voice how my day is going and we have a laugh over my password not working. The phone call lasts less than five minutes and the problem is fixed without stress or hassle. I just kept thinking, “What is going on here???” I’m flabbergasted at how nice everyone is. I see a cute little girl eating a slice of pizza. Her mother tells me she’s 17 months old. So darn cute.
I visit Starbucks (which I have not patronized in some months due to my recent back-country existence), and I have a pleasant experience there as well. I sit here listening to my favorite music that they happen to be playing (good old classic R&B) and doing some good ol’ people watching. The show shine guy at the end of security stands around talking to himself, asking the people walking by if they’d like their shoes shined. He took a break a while ago, but he’s back now, reading a magazine. I wonder how many shoes he really gets to shine in a day. So far it doesn’t seem to be many takers. I wonder what his life story is. One of the Starbucks employees is on break now and she’s sitting at the table next to mine. I complemented her on her lilac purple headband that she fessed up to stealing from her younger sister.
Before my eyes a modern version of front-porch-sitting is taking place. A cleaning lady and a guy who directs planes to the gates have joined her and they are all sharing jokes and ribbing each other. He is eating the lunch that he brought from home-made of a sandwich, Cheetos, and some green grapes. I am fascinated by the family they have created right in front of me. It seems that as soon as I sat here, time sped up, and now it is time for me to catch my plane.
Before I get on the plane, I meet a woman named Delora. She is the last person in line behind me where we strike up a conversation. She is a very congenial person; the kind of person you’d like to work across from in an office cubicle. Delora has her purse draped over her arm and a floral print shirt on. These things remind me of my grandma. As we get on the airplane she tells me that she prefers window seats to see out of so she can look at the stuff down below. Her grown kids live in Arizona close to where she lives, but her husband lives in Texas for his job which is why she’s flying there. After we land in El Paso for our layover I decide to eat the chocolate-chip oatmeal-raisin cookies that mom made for me. I have two so I offer her one. She timidly accepts my offer, as if she’s afraid of cheating me out of a coveted possession. While we eat them I find out more about Delora. She tells me that she has decorated each room in her house with a different theme and explains why. She calls her living room the “Oriental Room”, because her husband’s sister who lived there sent them some furniture. The “Dolphin Room” is the room she does her sewing in. She is very particular about telling me about the rooms. Maybe it’s her only hobby. Upon finishing the cookie, she declares that my mom makes the best cookies ever.
We get to Dallas and walk toward the baggage claim together. She begins to fret about missing her husband in the airport crowded with people. Maybe she should call him, she moans. I decide to walk with her until she finds her husband. Maybe it’ll ease her nervousness. Finally she sees her husband. He’s a tall, rather barrel-chested man with a white, balding head. They hug, but seem a bit unfamiliar with each other. I guess they’ve spent quite a long time apart and I suppose to myself that maybe being apart with empty nest syndrome is harder than either of them suspected when he left to come work here. She introduces me to her husband, and he offers his outstretched hand in a quiet gesture. You can tell she’s the more outgoing and talkative of the two. She thanks me for the cookie again, and we part ways.
I begin wandering down to baggage claim to find my backpack, which I pray is still in one piece. It was damaged on my flight to California, so I am hoping that my duct tape skills haven’t failed me. Amidst the throng of people waiting for bags, I decide to call mom and let her know that I have arrived safely. I am trying to hear over the infernally loud airport intercom as mom is explaining her recent bouts of intense itching, lethargy, and nausea. I decide that shouting over the noise is ridiculous so I tell her I’ll call her in a day or two. My bag comes out (not missing any pieces), so I throw it on my back and go outside.