Allow me to start by saying, I love airports; the flying, meeting people, exotic places, the thrill of travel and change. They are huge centers of travel, and excitement, but they are also massive centers of people. Airports feel alive; much like a downtown Manhattan street: buzzing with people, a thousand lives who only share in common the same air they breathe and pavement they walk on.

You'll see many kinds of people at an Airport: The frequent traveler, the vacationer, the adventure seeker, the nervous to fly type, and many others. Each has their own individual differences. Airports are singularly unique because they fall outside of the Real World. People's lives are on hold while they are flying; it is a mutual suspension of society. So how do they act in this completely anonymous setting? You will only see these people but once or twice, and that will be it. So how will they act? What will they do? I like to people watch, and to learn about them, and in turn, myself.

It starts when we all get there; about an hour and a half before the flight. You can tell many things right away... people are naturally vulnerable, open, exposed... What are they wearing? Are they dressed up, or casual? I always fly casually, but some people do not. Are they trying to look good in front of 200 people they've never seen before? Do they have a meeting at 11pm when we get off the plane? Dress means a lot; clothes are an armor and a crayon; they protect you, yet reveal a little bit about you at the same time.

Is the person acting busy; walking around, talking on a cell phone? On a laptop, busy punching keys? Or is the person on the laptop playing solitaire, reading a book, or listening to music. These people are more casual, laid back, and take it more easily.

How does a person act when near these anonymous strangers? Are they drawn close to themselves, leaving lots of space between the next people in line? Are they concerned about personal space and privacy? How much have they packed? Are they incredibly careful with it*? Are they rude, or polite to the other people getting on the plane. No one there is any better than anyone else...

When you are all packed into those uncomfortable seats, what do your two row mates do? Do they converse with you, keep to themselves, or sleep. Do they mind the middle seat**? Look around... an airport trip for almost everyone means change; how a person handles change means a lot about them. Your life is being imposed on as well as everyone else's. Such is the life of the weary traveler.

There are even the selfless acts by some... who will give up their seat? Who will allow families to sit near each other? There are kind souls to be found there. Good exists in everyone, and manifests itself in different ways. People can make the trip better for everyone, or try to shield themselves from their several hours of personal hell.

Airports, and the actions people take at them, reveal so much about how a person relates, deals with stress, handles situations, bounces back from change, and how they choose to appear in front of others. No other place in the world do miniature societies form and dissolve so quickly as there. People on an airplane are powerless to accept their fate, be it a bumpy ride, a crash, or a smooth trip home. It's a strange analogy to our everyday lives, and because of that people volunteer information, even if they are merely staring out a window begging for a plane to deliver a loved one.

Some of the most interesting and frank conversations about work, life, dreams, ideas, sex, and people were on an airplane. Some people (like myself), love the opportunity to interact with people from all over, with different lives and experiences. For a few hours, your paths will cross but once; why miss this chance to really get to know someone in a personal way? Your life will be better for it, and otherwise you will lose those eight hours while on board. Learn people, and you will find yourself among the crowd. If you listen to the hum, you can hear individual voices. If you listen really closely, you may even hear yourself.

* Of course for security reasons you have to be careful with your luggage.
** I mind the middle seat, but that is only because the view from the window is fascinating.

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