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A Ticket to Somewhere

May 14, 2012

What better place to people-watch than in an airport while you wait for your flight? As I sit in the terminal for over an hour, it is easy to observe people from all walks of life. They are all ages, races, and ethnicities: literally a melting-pot. On Sunday night flying home from Minneapolis, Minnesota, I discreetly glance around trying to find subjects and to not be obvious in the process.

I spot a thin man in army fatigues. He is African-American and probably in his twenties. His eyes are the most prominent feature of his face. They protrude from his face, extending forward and diminishing his other features: a slight mouth, narrow chin, and a slender nose. Along with his eyes, his forehead consumes his face. His shaved head exaggerates the size. Overall, this man is very slight. His face and body are thin, rather than having stereotypical jarhead muscles and lack of neck. Without the army fatigues, he would not look like a war hero or anyone experienced at fighting. His movements exude hesitation, not confidence. He keeps his eyes downward and his body language is entirely submissive. Could it be this man is returning from deployment, only to be suffering from PTSD or is so affected by the war to become entirely introverted? The large eyes that are so hypnotizing are empty and wide, like a child’s. I wish I could tell what he is thinking, but his eyes lack emotion. They aren’t windows into the soul. The flight attendant begins calling for people to pre-board. Families with children and disabled are announced to board, but veterans or members of the armed forces are not. After the families and disabled walk onto the plane, the army man tenderly approaches the flight crew, gesturing with his ticket to see if it is okay to board. They vigorously nod yes.

I hear the second person before I see him as he is sitting behind me in the airport terminal. From his voice I can tell he is an older gentleman, possibly late fifties- early sixties. His voice is animated and lively. As I begin to listen to his conversation, I realize he is talking about his love of art with a complete stranger. This passion is responsible for his energetic tone. When the stranger agrees, he becomes more spirited. I discreetly glance behind me to see that this man is the age I pictured in my mind. He has large, square wire glasses, matched with a white beard and a nearly bald head. The plaid flannel shirt and jeans add to the kindness in his face and voice. As he vivaciously gestures with his hands, I get the feeling that he loves life and is very active in his old age. The last thing I hear is him telling the stranger how excited he is that he is flying first class for the very first time.

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