There’s a lovely thing, if you’re so minded to think it, of watching arrivals at airports. I mean the people, not the planes. Inevitably early (really, I should get help) in meeting my incoming, I settle down to watch others reuniting with theirs – not quite flask-and-a-travel-rug-settle-down, but something at least like an acceptance over the years that I’m doing what I do, and that it’s happening and it’s fun.
Each act of arriving, each reunion, each greeting tells a story, for sure, with each a blaring cultural trumpet too, be that generational or by nation, and delightful where the variables intersect – a kind of Scissors-Paper-Stone game of greeting ensues; when squeezes meet self-consciousness, and squeal goes up against squirm. One dad-son handshake.
But it’s a very specific arrivals scene witnessed just last weekend that I wanted to pick at some more.
A woman with two young children was waiting for someone just landed. A man, first off his flight and smiling, purposed, strode out of the gates and headed towards them. This should be text-book, I thought, his smile producing mine. But as he neared what we’ll reasonably guess was the family, an unexpected business occurred.
The woman signalled for him to stop at the distance he was at – a lollipop-lady palm aloft, her whole body braced and a leg barricading the kids. He stopped, bag in hand swaying. She did this, I could see, because she wanted to get a photo of him just arrived – in the act of arriving.
He looked embarrassed, clearly not expecting the reunion halted by his fellow-reunionee; his partner, godammit. Then, because her phone didn’t quite get the picture, she held him back a little more.
Now he was visibly a little pissed off. The others off his flight were negotiating their reunions and their trolleys around him – he was made to be in their way, held in a rubbish suspension of real and then reconstructed emotions; a surge of sudden unplanned chemicals souping behind a joyless and cemented grin. He wasn’t prepared for any of this. In fairness, by buggery, neither was I.
And then I heard her call to him, exasperated, ‘oh, at least try and look like you’re happy to see us!’
Well, I had to look away.
But watching arrivals in airports is a lovely thing.
Here, by the way, is how I think he looked in that precious captured moment:
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012