Travelling anywhere is a gift and a luxury. As a dedicated people-watcher, there is simply no place better than the airport to imagine the stories of one's fellow adventurers - some seemingly immune to the wonder of it all and others tentative - overwhelmed by the spaces and unsure of their path. Boarding my flight to Toronto, all of the "business-class" seats were already occupied - each of the inhabitants forcefully avoiding the gaze of the minions who filed by - staring intently into their newspapers or lap-tops while we inched down the aisle en route to less comfortable quarters. The trick is no eye contact - the message being we are far too busy and important to pay attention to you people - and you are merely a nuisance - a horde of 'lesser-thans' who take too long to store their cheap luggage and strap themselves in. The entire illusion of separateness is reinforced every time the flight attendant decisively and repeatedly pulls the curtain shut - better that we not be reminded that were we in different circumstances - ample legroom would be all ours. There is something obnoxious about the whole scenario on an aircraft where the forced segregation implies the disinterested staff have no reason to pay any real attention to those with a lower credit limit and it shows in their faces as they dolefully, and somewhat resentfully, hand out the juice glasses while their lucky colleague in front has only the chosen few to dote on.
It had been ages since I got on a plane and in the row directly behind me was a young couple with a 10-month old baby girl. Some people might find the prospect of a wee one a hazard in such a confined space. Plane travel is not well suited for babies - with limited room to move around and few distractions to occupy them. But this couple valiantly and quietly tried everything to make her smile - and were remarkably successful for most of the flight. But there were moments in her frustration, that the beautiful little one just had to let it out - and I could feel the tension in the seats all around me - and the look of anxious discomfort on her mommy's face. But I drank in that sound...embraced it...listened carefully to everything that baby was trying to tell us. No audio-track on my head-phones could be so life-affirming. And when we landed I tapped her mom on the shoulder and told her what an amazing job they had done...they had been so patient and calm, riding out the bad times and showering her with kisses in between. She smiled and said she was so worried that the baby's noise was upsetting to her fellow passengers. Not at all, I told her, she was such a lovely wee girl. When we got to the baggage area, the mom was holding the baby and rocking her gently. As I walked by she gave me a shy smile and a little wave. Just a couple of strangers with unknown destinations, arms full of possibilities and miles to go before we slept.