Who Do You Want To Be?Air travel is not what it used to be (I wonder if it was ever “what it used to be”), and can therefore be stressful for many people. Even so, I’m constantly dismayed at how just about everyone I come across in airports seems to exist in their own bubble; earbuds firmly in place, eyes fixed on some invisible middle distance, fingers dancing across tiny keyboards. They are apparently connected to everyone except those who are actually within touching distance.
As a seasoned and frequent traveler, I long ago decided that I could remove one source of stress from my life by striving to arrive at the airport much earlier than required. Often, I will just sit and watch the unending river of people flowing by. If it’s been a particularly long day, I may find a spot in a bar and have a quick drink. It’s here, the ubiquitous airport bar, where you often find people who are not disconnected, those kindred souls who would rather converse nose-to-nose with a stranger than electronically with someone they know. So unsurprisingly, it was at a bar in the Cincinnati airport, during a prolonged weather delay in January of 2002, where I met Sharon… who was, and remains, the most intelligent and witty woman I’ve ever met.
As soon as I sat and placed an order with the bartender… bourbon, two drops of water just to **** it off… she turned towards me from the next stool, leaned in expectantly, and asked with a wry smile, “So. Let’s talk. Who do you want to be?”
In some ways, I suppose an airport bar is a lot like EP… you can be whoever you’d like to be… and although the thought was interesting, I could see a gleam of a sharp mind lurking in her blue eyes and that was more than just interesting, that was intriguing. I took a quick sip of bourbon before responding, “You know what, I think I’ll be me. Straight. Nothing hidden. Anything and everything is fair game. Up for it?” She didn’t hesitate before extending one well-manicured hand for a quick shake to seal the deal followed by an exchange of first names.
A brief back-and-forth question and answer session established the basics and then we were off. We laughed, we cried, we drank cheap bourbon. We exposed our deepest fears and greatest achievements. We exchanged secrets that we thought would never see daylight. We solved world hunger, brought peace to the Middle East, and forever resolved the dilemma of “who” versus “whom.” She was well read and had a subtle but biting humor that could quickly cut through any attempt at artifice. She was both ferocious and vulnerable, and was at times unshakeable in her positions. I was eloquent and funny, and unleashed my well-honed ability to unravel and follow thin threads. We talked for hours, we talked for years. It was glorious.
When her flight was called, she sighed, gathered her belongings, and leaned in to give me a quick peck on the cheek. I don’t know her email address, phone number, or even last name, but I will never forget her. Nor will I ever forget the five words she whispered after bussing my cheek, and the rare blush they brought to my face….
“I would so do you.”
Yeah, and I’d have married you on the spot.