Thursday, February 4, 2010

I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday

(Context: This was around 1996, in the days before airport security was as stringent as it is now.)

We are at Sacramento Airport and my fiancée has her ticket and is getting ready to go through security. She lives in Seattle and I live in the San Francisco area so the parting is emotionally charged – we know we aren’t going to be seeing each other face-to-face again for some time.

The clock ticks and it’s time for her to start making her way toward the gate. We come to a set of escalators and there is a woman stationed there that is stopping people. She is asking them if they have a ticket to board a flight, which I do not.

She says, “She can go, YOU stay down here,” and I wonder why this woman is so angry.

I ask, “I only want to walk her to the security point, are there any exceptions?”

Her lips turn into an honest-to-goodness sneer and asks, “Exceptions like what? Like you’re in love?”

Her words are dripping with sarcasm and disdain. We share a last embrace and I watch my fiancée ride the escalator up and then walk out of sight. I stand there in shock and just stare at the grumpy woman.

I mill around and consider asking for her supervisor’s name. She continues to stop random people, but not everyone. My anger builds and builds until I realize something.

For her not to have a grain of empathy for me, she must not have any similar feeling to relate to. She’s never had to tear herself away from a loved one getting on a plane and flying to a far off place. It’s likely that the only satisfaction she has at the end of the day is knowing that she kept all the lowly non-ticket holders like myself from seeing what lies at the top of the escalator.

Suddenly, I feel bad for her. I walk past her and smile sadly saying, “I’m sorry.”

It sets off something inside her. She yells, “Sorry for what?! Sorry for what?!” but I am already walking away. I turn back to see her eyes turn from anger to a little bit of pain and confusion. It lasts for maybe two seconds and then the shields slam down again, her sneer returns and she purposefully turns to face a long hallway that is completely empty.

I continue back to my car- frustrated, angry and forlorn. I take solace in knowing that, even though my fiancée lives far away, I never have to feel like I am all alone staring down a vast florescent-lit empty hallway.

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