Looking Past The Surface

I have been a people watcher for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory is swinging in the park as a little girl, watching the interactions of others. It has continued into my adult life, and whenever my husband and I go out to eat, I typically take the seat that faces the doorway in order to see the comings and goings of others better.

Creepy idiosyncrasy? I’m sure some will think so, but people are intriguing. Being the observational person that I am, I have learned how everyone has a story and by being a people watcher, we can learn more about our culture, environment and even ourselves.

Last week, as I traveled to the east coast to visit my daughter, I had a three-hour layover in Sea-Tac.

The Things You Will See

Walking through any airport terminal, the shop with the longest line will most likely be at Starbucks. At Sea-Tac, the line is so long, that it gets intermingled with other quick-stop shops. I watched people who thought they were in line for a breakfast croissant from Burger King, only to find out as they got further up to the front, they were among the Starbuckians and had to start all over as they got in the correct line.

Starbuckians will stand in line for a good 30 minutes or longer, waiting for their double-shot, nonfat, grande, caramel macchiato. They worry more about getting their coffee than making it to their departing gate. I watched more than one person grab their coffee and dash through the terminal as the attendant announced the last call to board their departing flights.

As I sat at the local pub, sipping my beer, I watched several employees of the custodial crew continually scouring the floor in the never-ending task of ensuring the terminal remained clean. They must be the most underappreciated employee of the airport staff. Rarely do they make eye contact, and before I could reach down and pick up my napkin that had drifted to the floor, I watched as it was suddenly swept into the dustpan of one such employee.

“Thank you,” I said as she was surveying the area for more trash.

Startled, without looking at me, she murmured, “You don’t have to thank me, Ma’am, It’s my job.”

“Well, I appreciate it,” I replied. That is when she finally looked into my eyes, and a small smile came across her face.

“Thank you,” she whispered and then went back to her job.

We Are More Alike Than You Realize

Each time I have flown to Sea-Tac, I am always amazed at the diversity within its walls. People of all ages, from all parts of the world, walk through this terminal but this last trip I noticed as diverse as we all are, there is something every one of us has in common.

In that brief moment, we are all characters of the same chapter, in the same story. And if we take time to observe the world around us, we can find the magic that extends beyond the Starbucks line.

Almost everyone, young and old have some type of electronic device in their hand doing their best to pass the time until their flight.

Couples taking selfies to post on social media and frazzled parents chasing over-excited children playing chase around the benches, quickly apologizing for tripping over someone’s foot, and quietly growling at their child to “go sit back down and don’t move!”

But one couple caught my eye as they sat a few rows away from my gate. They were the ones who stood out to several of us once we glanced up from our cell phones.

What The Story Can Share

Their silver hair shimmered as the sunlight enveloped them. His hand rested softly on her leg, and his eyes glistened as he watched her reading a magazine. At one point, without looking up, she placed her hand on top of his and squeezed it, bringing a smile to both of their faces. The quick glimpse of the story they shared between their hands brought hopeful images of lives full of love.

The speaker from the gate brought me back to attention as it was announced my flight was now boarding. Gathering my things, I stood up and stole a quick look back at the older couple. He helped his bride to her feet, placing a kiss on her forehead while taking her hand as they walked towards the door.

The children who were running around the room earlier were now jumping up and down pulling on their parent’s arms as they squealed “We get to go on the plane now!”

As we made our way through the doorway to the plane, I found myself thankful for the people who became part of my chapter that day.

Whether coincidence, fate or divine intervention brought us together, our stories intertwined for a brief moment. Several of us saw the childlike excitement of a new adventure. We watched service in action from airport staff, and we were even lucky enough to be reminded that true love is timeless.

People-watching opens up windows into the lives of others, and we become invested in their stories. And every once in awhile, we find renewed hope that the world is not as big or bad as we might think.

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