I was half an ambien in when I entered LaGuardia. The morning was already gray, made duller by artificial smoke and a low fog over the mistake by the bay. Everything about Lagaurdia now is tired, brittle, and uninspiring. It reminds me of the opening scene of a post-apocolatypic wasteland film, with large remnants of gears and steel bridges that end without warning. There are droves of people with their tired luggage behind them trying to cross those bridges. They are probably all lost by now.
This isn’t the modern Ellis Island New York wants, but maybe it’s the one we deserve. We’ve been too naive in thinking these developing ports of travel and commerce reflect our worldliness, a desire for connection. LaGuardia is a port of purpose. Men (mostly men) on small trips to medium places for a modicum of business. This is a New Yorker’s airport - get out quick, back quicker.
In the American terminals, bars are pretty much nonexistent. But bars are where that small egalitarian flicker burns brightest in these places. I’ve always been known to arrive to airports early, partially for my neurosis, and partially to find the perfect seat close to my gate where I can drink, read, write, and converse with all those people who have found themselves in the same place as me for a million different reasons.
These are some of the strangest and meaningful connections I make on a daily basis. The ones with air travelers or Uber drivers or bartenders. The transient kind that start when the fare begins or end when the check is paid. Anecdotes and innocuous exchanges that are sometimes riveting, trite or forgettable. Here, amongst the single stools at the bars, it doesn’t really matter who we are, what we do, or what we have. When you know your time with a stranger is finite, a small investment can provide little loss but great return.
But these are the people I come for. The ones who are wandering, the ones for whom I am the extra and they are the protagonist. We travel in and out of each other’s stories like stamps on a passport. Memories that will revisit us later when we don’t expect it.
Where are you headed?
What the hell you doing there?
My fiancé lives there. I moved to be with him.
You must realllllly love that guy.
Oh yes. I do.