I'm writing this in an airport (alas, I'm not traveling to RWA National in
) while watching the people around me. Anaheim
A young couple with a child of about four pass by. I decide they're European by the cut of their clothes and the look of their shoes. They're probably from
, but when I make up back stories for strangers, I get to pick where they're from. I get to name them, too. He's Dieter, and she's Nebraska Lena. Their little girl is Doro.
Here comes a thirtyish woman in a black jersey shift that skims her knees. A bright green cardigan lends a shot of color, and the black patent-leather flip-flops on her feet sport a flower detail—a simple and smart travel ensemble. I call her Kim and decide she's going to a reunion with her college roommates.
My mother, who's in her eighties, bemoans the passing of the glamorous era of airline travel. She remembers dressing in her best to fly. Nowadays, people dress to pass through security with the minimum of hassle. Who wants to remove a belt, jacket, and jewelry? Who wants to cope with fussy clothes when packed sardine-like in coach?
I look up and see a father wheeling a tiny girl in a stroller. The tot hunches forward and looks left and right, delighted by the lights, sounds, and people. I'm delighted by her—and by the pink Mary Janes on her feet. I dub her Sophie.
My flight's been called, but before we board, a crew member asks for two adults traveling together and qualified to sit in an exit row seat to volunteer to move there. Two men who look like college students step forward. One of them is rail thin and is wearing a travel pillow like a puffy collar. Despite the pillow, he exudes a wiry energy, and I think he could handle an emergency landing. I name him Danny and decide he's on his way to
to visit the Houston campus because he wants to transfer and change majors. Rice University
Uh oh, time to board. I stop writing but continue to people-watch. Kim and Danny may show up as characters in one of my stories. So will the pregnant mom who's been so patient with her fidgety toddler.
For a writer, there are lots of advantages to showing up two hours before a flight.