You Never Forget Your First… Airport Experience

Feature image: A young woman pulls her carry-on suitcase through an airport terminal /Photo by Sharkshock on Adobe Stock

By Marley Ramon, Guest Writer

Recently, I received an invitation to visit one of my favourite colleges: Reed. The caveat? I would travel alone to Portland from Albuquerque, New Mexico and stay alone. I was seventeen at the time, so I wasn’t scared. But due to my parents’ sensibilities, I had never done anything similar in my life. The trip was remarkable, but it was the airport that changed my life.

The airport is a somewhat terrible, somewhat buoyant, somewhat wonderful experiment. A liminal hell, where nothing functions as society tells us it must. There’s no dress code, no judgment – all the time in the world yet constant pressure. The airport is a starting point and a destination. A beginning, and an ending. A place of new experiences, of being scared, of feeling giddy. An unparalleled exposition of every human emotion.

To experience this alone was an awakening, a baptism into adulthood. Every emotion feeling shiny and new. Without the restraint of parental judgment, every event is a phenomenon. The freedom a pure shot of adrenaline. As a young woman nearing the age of college and moving out, my anxiety is indescribable, worry building as the fear of failure crescendos. But the airport was a taste of my life – I could do it, and I would enjoy it.

One of the amazing facets of the airport is the kindness it brings out in people. In this funky melting pot of nationalities, socioeconomic status, and business, no one belonged. In this sense, everyone did. The foreign environment made everyone their best selves. Friendly conversations, subtle agreements to not make things awkward between two people quite literally rubbing elbows, strangers sharing snacks, fun stories. People who have never spoken going out of their way to make another person’s day better.

Everywhere I turned, I saw kindness. A nice lady who offered me her spot in line just because. The girls hyping up everyone in the restrooms. The woman who saw me working on homework battling sunrise, bowing her head to block the glare without any indication on my part. My row-partner who watched me draw for the better part of three hours, handing out compliments that still warm my heart. The man who told me all about his family waiting for him as we stood in line. All the people who shared tables and silent smiles with me. Everyone readily watching luggage, returning lost items, and ensuring no one forgets their phone on the seat.

The airport brought out the best in me. I recall describing how parabolic flight paths could force a plane to replicate zero-G – the first thing I could think of when comforting a little girl scared of turbulence. Every one of these acts tiny. Yet, months later, I still remember each one. Small demonstrations of humanity tucked away in a trivial point of transition.

Photo of the author, Marley Ramon

17-year-old Marley Ramon recently travelled through an airport solo for the first time. / Photo credit: Marley Ramon

One of the amazing facets of the airport is the kindness it brings out in people. In this funky melting pot of nationalities, socioeconomic status, and business, no one belonged. In this sense, everyone did. The foreign environment made everyone their best selves. Friendly conversations, subtle agreements to not make things awkward between two people quite literally rubbing elbows, strangers sharing snacks, fun stories. People who have never spoken going out of their way to make another person’s day better.

Everywhere I turned, I saw kindness. A nice lady who offered me her spot in line just because. The girls hyping up everyone in the restrooms. The woman who saw me working on homework battling sunrise, bowing her head to block the glare without any indication on my part. My row-partner who watched me draw for the better part of three hours, handing out compliments that still warm my heart. The man who told me all about his family waiting for him as we stood in line. All the people who shared tables and silent smiles with me. Everyone readily watching luggage, returning lost items, and ensuring no one forgets their phone on the seat.

The airport brought out the best in me. I recall describing how parabolic flight paths could force a plane to replicate zero-G – the first thing I could think of when comforting a little girl scared of turbulence. Every one of these acts tiny. Yet, months later, I still remember each one. Small demonstrations of humanity tucked away in a trivial point of transition.

The airport is regarded as a necessary evil. Wading through security to get where you need to go. We as a people have acknowledged this and decided that we as individuals can help change it. In our own slight way, we help others. We have decided that travelling is an inconvenience, that we are all in this beautiful mess, but dear God are we going to help others weather it however we can.

Marley Ramon is a high-school student and aspiring writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is always ready to learn new things and experience new places.

Carolyn Ray

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