Airport pickups used to be really exciting when I was growing up. Over the years, with a considerably heavier traveling schedule across families and business, that level of excitement has decreased to an almost non-existent one. Today I had an airport pickup. I was picking up my mother whom I had not seen in a few months, and was really looking forward to seeing her again. The worst thing that can happen during an airport pickup is the dreaded flight delay or if the awaited luggage is the last piece to be off-loaded from the plane. Well it all went wrong today, and I found myself waiting for over an hour.
Thinking it would be a quick trip, I did not have any reading material with me, to top it all and an additional dreadful case scenario, my phone was dead after a long day at work. Although perforce, while waiting at the airport, I found myself enjoying the flurry of activity around me, one that is usually filtered when I have my phone/email on. The airport is actually a really interesting place. There are so many people, so many comings and goings, and each one with a fairly visible and different story line. Some that caught my eye were :
1. A father returning after a seemingly protracted business/work trip and the ensuing greeting by his immediate family. It is amazingly heartening to see the expression on the faces of children when they see a parent after a period of time. After loud and loving greetings, when they passed me by on their way out, the children were already excitedly asking their dad what he had bought from them. It is really awesome to see this replay over and over again, bringing back fond memories….some scenarios are quite timeless.
2. The businessman turning his blackberry device back on, on the phone, finding his way to a cab or being received by someone from a hotel. In this scenario, there often seems to be a total disconnect by the person with the surroundings, and very often these people do not seem to be having the best of days. I hope I don’t look and act like that when I am traveling. Point to note for next time.
3. A son/daughter who has returned from college/summer break/holiday. Usually there are quite a number of family members who have come to welcome them back, and a series of hugs and kisses is a natural behavior. It is such a purely happy scene, those initial few minutes when a person exits the airport terminal and is met by people who matter to them. A very moving and feel good scenario.
4. The person who is lost and frantically trying to change the SIM on his phone, or trying to find a pay phone to inquire about the people who are supposedly picking him/her up. I counted 3 such cases tonight and it was sad to see. I could relate to what Juan Mann of the Free Hugs Movement really meant when he spoke about the emptiness he felt during one of his many trips in and out of airports when there was no one there to meet him. If you don’t know about the movement I would definitely check it out.
5. The person you are waiting for arrives! At first you see them from a distance but it is only after you give them that first hug does the connect register with elation. There is that immediate catchup on the flight and how you have been, time flies at this stage …. and you are all back home, together again .
In an increasingly ‘connected’ world, I feel we are rapidly disconnecting from real connections, those that make all the difference to us in the real world. If I did not run out of battery on my phone today, I doubt I would have written this post. I felt it was important to write about this learning experience as it taught me, again, about all that we filter out on a daily basis with our ever increasingly connected lives. Our work seems to consume us (especially for startup entrepreneurs) and we find ourselves living, increasingly out of the present rather than in it. I hope this blog post serves as a reminder to me in the first instance about what I am missing out on a daily basis, and then to those who are reading this and have not ‘disconnected’ from their ever connected lives for a while.