I can’t watch the airport scenes from Love Actually without crying. Every. Single. Time.
Airports are such emotional roller coasters. You’re arriving, you’re leaving. You’re seeking out someone you love in a sea of faces. If it’s long haul you’ve flown, you’ve likely got exhaustion and a confused body clock thrown in. If you’re on your own in an unfamiliar overseas airport, it can be daunting to the point of overwhelming.
Things sometimes go wrong. Your phone doesn’t seem to want to pick up a local carrier. Your credit card doesn’t want to communicate with the local banking system. You are supposed to meet someone at a certain point but they’re not there. Maybe you’re in a foreign airport and don’t speak the language.
The last point makes everything seem hopeless … and it’s what happened to my sister and I a few years ago in Bangkok.
I arrived on an international flight from Australia. She had flown in from the US a few days earlier and had been at a beach resort so arrived on a domestic flight. In making her way through the enormous airport she went the wrong way. Her explanations and queries of how to get to me (we had planned our precise meeting point) fell on deaf ears.
Knowing her flight was due almost an hour before mine I was a little surprised when she wasn’t there. But, knowing that she’s my sister I figured she probably needed to pee because of the excitement ai stayed put to wait. As the minutes passed I knew there was something wrong.
I had her paged. I called her husband in New York. I waited. I had her paged again. They wouldn’t tell me if she’d been on the flight. I held out for a little longer then called our mum in Australia. I had her paged again.
And I tried to quell the rising panic.
After a little over an hour (in which I aged about 5 years!) I saw someone running in the distance. I met her half way and held onto her as if I’d never let her go. There was a lot of ugly crying – but she was there and she was okay. She’d been taken by officials onto a bus out to the tarmac where they took her passport and questioned her ad nauseam.
For following the wrong sign. We high tailed it to our hotel and proceeded to drink cocktails by the pool under the stars. It was the only thing for us!
When my phone rang early today and I heard my little sister’s tearful voice (from a pay phone on the other side of the world) my heart broke a little. Technology and the banking system conspired against her on arrival in San Francisco. And she was supposed to meet her husband from an internal flight that didn’t exist on any of the arrivals boards.
This time everything was solved in 20 minutes, because my technology was working just fine and so was her husband’s – but that is a seemingly endless period of time when you’re the one alone in an airport.
Being the big sister I always feel so helpless if I can’t be right by her side in any kind of crisis, and I know I feel so much better when she’s with me. But helpless is how I’ve felt a times – some of those times I’ve been able to be by her side sooner than later. Other times she’s lived 24 hours away by plane so being there in the moment just isn’t possible.
(Tip: calling your sister to ‘fix it’ when you’re standing on your couch in New York and she’s in her office in Sydney is not really much use to your mouse in the house issue!)
This got me to thinking: how on earth am I going to deal with not being there for her the first time Bubba needs me and geography makes dropping everything and appearing at her side impossible?