February 2, 2015 by rebelwithalabelmaker
There are apologies piling up like snowdrifts in the Boston airport right now. “Another 45 minutes…” “We have the plane, but not the de-icing… we got into the de-icing schedule, but now the flight crew has been working for too long…”. One gate over, the flight attendant’s voice catches as she speaks to a group that has been delayed since five this morning. “I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry. Tomorrow morning.”
My plane, which was supposed to leave early this morning, has been delayed again. Boston, which has been a whirlwind of visiting and learning over a delightful weekend, is starting to transform in my mind. I keep picturing my boys. The living room fire. My own bed. That little smile Gary gets around the corners of his mouth. I am suddenly, deeply, achingly homesick.
I begin listening to Great Big Sea songs about Canadians leaving St. John’s to earn their fortune in New England. Toiling for years to raise money to start families with girlfriend who marry other people while they are away and then they fall in to despair and they NEVER EVER GET HOME AGAIN.
Suddenly realizing I’m starving, I head over to a fast food place. The cashier apologizes profusely with each thing I try to order—they’ve been feeding delayed travellers all day, and are out of almost all of the food.
“I feel so bad for them, you know?” I hear a woman behind the counter say, talking to a co-worker. She looks over to me as she is cooking.
“How long have you been at the airport?” she asks. I’ve only been here a few hours. She asks where I’m going, if I have family.
“How long have you been here?” I ask her, as I see her shifting her weight from foot to foot.
“Three thirty this morning” she answers. But she is smiling encouragingly at me.
“You are in pretty good spirits for someone who has been here all day.” I imagine the frustration of the delayed travellers. Their reactions to the slowly dwindling menu. Their general exhaustion.
As she hands me my food, she smiles broadly at me, and when she speaks again, I notice her thick accent.
“It’s okay.” she says. Then, by way of encouragement, “It’s not every day, you know?”
I return her offered smile, and carry my food back to the gate.
Another hour and a half is being added to our delay, and that’s if everything goes well. Nearly every flight in this area of the airport has already been cancelled, but we have a fresh flight crew, and we’re fourth in line for de-icing, so we might make Minneapolis by very late tonight.
“It’s not every day, you know…” I keep rolling the woman’s sentence over in my mind. I wonder what that would be like. If it WAS every day. For a minute, my mind is filled with images of camps and refugees, neatly framed in the glowing screen of a tv or laptop.
I try to place the woman’s accent in my mind. And wonder where she’s from. I wonder about her family. About the inequities between all the people sharing the space of this airport, and the compassion with which she offered me my food.
I eat my dinner with gratitude, watching the falling snow.
There’s so little we all know about one anothers’ stories. Who we are separated from. What we are hungry for. How long we have been waiting. I am ashamed of myself for feeling any self pity, and also filled with a sense of awe.
Humbled isn’t the right word for this feeling. It doesn’t go far enough. I wish there was a word for humiliated that meant… good things. Maybe some pain, but mixed with a kind of swooping of gratitude and interconnection. I would say I feel that.
What am I doing, I wonder. Looking back over the blur of the last week… the conversations about theology and history and maybe a little bit of self importance. Monuments and churches and historical sites. When did it start being like this? Snow settling, making the sound that forgetting makes. Covering everything in white until you think you can’t remember about the ground holding you up, and it feels for a minute like you belong here. Standing on fluffy strands of clouds. When did I start forgetting?
All I can think is that I hope someday I will do something—anything—with the amount of grace that some people bring to the serving of French Fries.
“We landed hard in Boston, and I’ve never seen the like
A small boat boy from ‘round the bay, in the sea of shining lights
Two days in I got a job, building towers of high steel
I had to learn, to not look down
and I quickly learned to kneel.”
-Great Big Sea