Falling in love with strangers

I traveled on an airplane for the first time in over a year this week and I have some (re)breaking news for you: people watching is a revelation!

First, it was the kid on the shuttle bus from the off-site parking lot, who had packed both his walkie talkies and two fortune cookies in his backpack. His parents lamented letting him pack his own bag, but I thought it was genius.

Then it was the lady in the dress that looked like it was made out of cheesecloth rubbing her man’s head and laughing with him about who knows what while waiting for the boarding announcement. Wherever they were going, I think they are going to have a nice time.

Then it was the graceful lady with the gorgeous white hair who didn’t move an inch when everyone else bunched in the boarding area, as if getting on the flight first was some kind of Olympic sport. She’s won the gold of wisdom. She doesn’t give a shit about being first on the plane.

Then it was the toddler with a spark of the fiery orange hair who kept trying to hurdle his dad’s outstretched leg to get into the aisle and was only soothed by the image of himself on the iPhone.

Oh, and that lady with the great dress reading about The Black Panthers. I think we would have been friends had we chatted, but thank God we didn’t.

And the flight attendant chatting absolutely everybody up and bringing them champagne at 8:30 in the morning and me, feeling so proud of those people for getting the most out of those first class luxurious seats beyond the curtain, particularly that one woman who watched the Diane Lane movie and cried a little and seemed to feel better about something.

And then on the shuttle after the flight, to the rental car company, there were those teenage sisters. The one insisted on not holding on to anything as the shuttle lurched around. Her hair was in a messy bun and she was wearing athletic clothes. Her sister had mascara and an impeccable manicure and razzed her the whole time for trying to prove something by not grabbing a pole. I was cheering for them both—the sister surfing the lurching traffic and the sister rolling her eyes. I looked at my own little daughters and wondered if they’d one day razz one another in public space and feel so at home in their bodies. I think probably so.

I knew I missed little exchanges with strangers during sheltering in, but I’d forgotten just how beautiful and hilarious humanity really is. We are so silly. That woman teetering around in those giant platform shoes! I forgot! People willfully put on shoes that are hard to walk in. And that man running for the shuttle with that baby in the Bjorn strapped to his barrel chest! They looked like a jiggly centaur. I hope they got where they were going.

I love us.