San Francisco International Airport, Gate 28:
I am waiting to board my flight in a quilted vinyl seat facing the tarmac. Distant runway lights shimmer in the distance, obscured by finger-printed glass and those fold-up walkways. Caravans of luggage trundle down below. I wonder if I’ll see any of those guys with the light sticks who guide arriving planes. A light bulb over my head flickers irregularly. The stark fluorescence casts sterile light on an already subdued troupe of travelers.
We’re a motley crew, this red-eye bunch. With many rows of vinyl seats between two gates, we’ve spread out strategically so that each person has at least three seats to himself. Two young families with toddlers and babies play in the pod of gates. The toddlers admire the planes and while other little ones fuss. People shift uncomfortably, silently hoping that they don’t share a cabin with the children. There’s really nothing anyone can do if it’s the case. We all know we’re in the airport for the same reason and a good night’s sleep is a characteristic of an ideal scenario. We’re all going to board a plane, receive a blanket and pillow of doubtful origin, and hope for a decent amount of rest in what is inevitably a restless situation. Perhaps, like me, the people in this gate did not savor the idea of leaving the city the next morning, only to arrive at home about eight hours later. At least this way, uncomfortable seats and cramped quarters notwithstanding, I have the prospect of a good lunch and a relaxing afternoon and evening at home. The weekend will be only slightly shorter.
I look around. I’m not the only one who has dressed for the occasion, sporting comfy layers. It is evident that some unfortunate ones have come straight from their workplaces and their business casual attire is bound for a night of obtaining new wrinkles. I yawn. It’s a good sign that I’ll manage to rest during this flight, despite my middle seat placement.
I’m almost home.