Now that we all have a lot of free time at the airport, we might as well get to know each other. When we’re at the airport we’re a community of people with a common goal: to get somewhere. If we start behaving like a community I think interesting things will happen.
First, downsize the game if necessary. Remember – we’ve been asked to take as little carry-on luggage as possible. For example, for Outburst, take only one of the plastic things and many of the cards in a small bag.
Then, sit down, make direct eye contact with someone near you, smile your broadest, friendliest smile and say “Want to play a game?”. Do this with several people until you have enough to play.
Break out the game, brief everyone on the rules, and start playing. Remember to keep the games friendly. As you play, make sure you keep the game open to anyone who comes by and might want to join. Be flexible – let people join and leave the game as they wish. Don’t keep score – it’ll be impossible with all of the movement. Or, if you do keep score, do it with two (changeable) teams and don’t be too serious about it.
There probably are some highly competitive and frustrated people in the gate area – if they get too aggressive while playing say something like “It’s just a game” or “Tell us how you really feel” or anything that will gently let them know that they might be about to over-react to what should be a fun situation. The games are meant to entertain and help us feel like we’re a community – not to prove who is best.
Some games that might be fun: Eat Poop You Cat (take several long pieces of paper and pencils), Outburst, Pictionary (even though drawing on the walls with permanent markers is discouraged in most airports), and other party games.
Other Things To Do
- Learn someone’s life story. You’ve got some free time and nearly everyone enjoys talking about themselves. So, start a conversation, relax, put on your ears, and learn another life. You can never know too much about people.
- Be someone else. Choose a new name, job, family, etc. for yourself. Then get into a conversation and develop your new character. I should place a caution here: Do not choose a character that would raise suspicion. For example, do not start a conversation with “I used to be a terrorist for the Taoist movement, but business was slow so now I sell cars”. This will get you hauled off to security where you’ll get to spend hours explaining why Taoists don’t have terrorists.
- Juggle. If a child becomes interested, try to teach him or her to juggle. If possible, find someone else who can juggle and practice exchanges.
- Get a group conversation going. Start talking to one or two people, and then invite others in by turning to them and saying “What do you think about that?”
- Tell a story. Are you a good story teller? Even if you’re not, there are probably story telling classes or groups in your community. Choose a story of optimism and hope and share it with some people in the gate area. Personally, I can sit and listen to stories all day. (Garrison Keillor is a great story teller – I’d recommend listening to some of his CD’s.)
- The Gap Game can be played at a variety of airport stores.
- Play cards.
- Go out to dinner together. Once you get to know a few people, recommend that you go eat at one of the restaurants. As some leave, the group can try to recruit other travelers to join the table.
- Start a joke-a-thon. I’ve seen so many times when strangers gathered together could spend hours telling each other jokes. Just one caveat – be good natured about it. Do not attack someone when they tell a racist joke, but you may want to just simply not laugh very much. Remember that everyone around you is from a different background and deserves respect no matter how much of an asshole they are.
- Pick someone up.
- Sing or play an instrument. If you’re blessed with on of these talents, and can take your instrument as carry-on (no pun intended), yeah!!! Music in the concourse would be wonderful and everyone would really, really, really appreciate it.
- Start a sing-along. Let me just tell you a story: We had arrived in Cleveland a few days before Christmas. Hundreds and hundreds of passengers all waiting in the luggage area. But something was wrong and the luggage wasn’t coming. It was well below freezing outside and the area didn’t seem to be heated. Most of us were cold, miserable, frustrated, angry. Then the singing started. I don’t know who started it, but suddenly a small group of people to my right were singing. I joined in. Others joined in. Within minutes we were all crooning Christmas carols. People were even making bar runs and bringing drinks back down for strangers. The 80 minutes we spent waiting for luggage became one of the magical moments in my life. During the singing we all knew each other, we were all friends, and we all supported each other through the long cold wait.