Fragments At the Airport


Photo Courtesy of Sleepy Hollow Books

Airports can be interesting places. Surely not because of the security checks and the long lines and the little plastic baggies we stuff full of tiny bottles of shampoo and toothpaste tubes, but because everyone is in transit.

Airports are hubs in more ways than one. When you come down to it, all of us, including the universe, are moving somewhere, and airports are centers of movement.

Each plane carries a complement of people, folk who travel for pleasure or for business or because some crisis requires their presence. If I sit long enough at an airport (and given the pattern of delays favored by most airlines, this is a given), real people whose names I will never know stream past.

Today a woman in a nearby coffee shop is tearing a croissant into small pieces while scanning the crowd. Her cell phone lies beside her coffee cup and every now and again she stops decimating her croissant to text somebody. Her eyes are anxious, a little afraid. I wonder why.

A man with two children hurries past chattering directions. Don’t run, hold your brother’s hand, tie your shoe laces before you trip… the children ignore him. Their disdain is palpable, and even at this distance I can see the eye-rolls.

Behind this little group comes a pale young man bellowing into his cell phone and then a couple who walk so closely together that their shoulders constantly bump. Nothing is said between them, but he looks down at her and she up at him in complete understanding. Then, they, too are lost in the crowd, and in their wake trail a group of college students texting furiously as they saunter along.

Sitting in an airport is almost like visiting Mussorgsky’s  Pictures At An Exhibition. Tableaux arrange themselves then break away into new formations, snatches of conversation are tossed about. Sometimes, these snippets are fascinating.

“…Oh, my lord—a goat!”

“No way your aunt can stay with us. Remember what she did to my guitar last time?”

I can only guess at these stories which have neither beginning nor end. The woman with the croissant, for instance—what is her story, I wonder. Then… a man in a crumpled seersucker suit comes hurrying up the corridor. He waves at the croissant woman and shouts something. Her face crumples, then smoothes into such happiness that she is suddenly radiant. Coffee cup and crumbs are pushed aside as they embrace.

“Sorry I’m late…”

“I was so worried…”

They speak at once and then stop and laugh and look long at each other. I watch as he picks up her bags and they move off, and I hope that their story will be a happy one.

Fragments of stories are what I find in an airport… but perhaps it is so everywhere. In our busy lives we meet, we greet, and we often converse with—how many? We do this and move on without really understanding that we are fellow voyagers on a world that travels around the same sun.

In warm airport

Met stranger’s eye, shared smiles…

But we did not speak.


About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

2 responses »

  1. Hi Maureen,
    My sister works as a gate agent for an airlines. She says she should write a book. I think the fact we only get snippets of people’s situations is what makes them so interesting. We get just enough to peak our interest, like a page turn.

    I’m glad you got back home safely. Wonder what others were wondering about you?

    Linda A.

    • Not home yet, Linda– I’m blogging from the lovely farm near Spoleto! Today we visited a place called Spello. I will write about it soon….

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