So, I’m closing in on the last hour and a half (hopefully) of my stay here at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I have circled the tiny terminal several times stretching my legs and I’ve finally located one of the precious few outlets in existence here.

This terminal, terminal 5, which is solely an international terminal does not have a single restaurant once you make it past the security check point. Normally, as I usually snub my nose at airport “delicacies,” I might have taken a spiteful pleasure in this fact. “Ha, I don’t want to eat airport food and now no one can! Muahaha!” However, after my original 5 hour layover ticked slowly away into a 7 hour layover, I find myself feeling resentful. Am I not, in my final hours, still in America? The home of the brave and McDonalds? The origin of Starbucks? Can I get a what what? I’ve eaten the only tasteless vegetarian wrap I could find buried behind the footlong chicken subs at a questionable kiosk; my only dietary salvation. While its iceberg lettuce was not nearly close to being satisfying, I am still appreciative to find an option I could consume.

I’ve also spent the last several hours thinking about people and relationships. Airports are interesting places. Forgive me, as I don’t mean to go all “opening scene from Love Actually on you, but anthropologically speaking, airports are unique. Actually, I might even compare them to the daily solitude among my 8 million neighbors in New York. At an airport, you have a large group of people commonly under extreme stress forced to occupy unusually tight quarters, take their clothes off, sit in chairs both small and uncomfortable, and appear to be somewhat pulled together. You rarely see a disheveled looking personal at the airport. (Those might be the ones that get escorted off into some private room to be “questioned.”) I respect most people for hiding their frustration and remaining calm in irritating circumstances. I also find the people that don’t bottle their stress to be quite amusing. In the security line at JFK Airport on my way home for Christmas, I eavesdropped on a couple insulting each other silly for choosing the wrong (meaning longer) queue. Sometimes these things I overhear make me feel happy to be human.  I am reminded every single one of us experiences these universal frustrations and that every single one of us chooses how we react. It reminds me to remember the humor in everything.

If you are handicapped, you experience many benefits at an airport. You are appointed your own personal airport employee that wheels you to the front of the security line; past the glares of a long snake of people waiting to take their shoes and coats off and walk through the scanners several time cursing the forgotten change in their pockets. You also get to board the plane and get off the plane first. I can’t help but feel slightly jealous. I guess they deserve the special treatment.

I also admire how well most families do with keeping their kids warmly dressed in this chilly Chicago winter. Every time I walk by a small child that is bundled so warmly their limbs protrude horizontally from their frames, I can only think about how much work it is to a) get said child into these layers in the morning b) pack all of these clothes for mom, dad, and child into weight-limit size baggage c) undress child and self to go through intensified security screening d) redress self and child and e) keep child happy and sustained with skimpy snack pickings in this desolate terminal. So far today, every child and family I have seen have been giggling. This makes me hopeful.

I will hopefully be boarding soon so I must make my way back to my proper gate (I am still plugged into the only outlet I was able to locate). I bid my friends, family, and America farewell for four months.

I’ll talk to you from across the pond.

Cheers,

Megan

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