It’s common knowledge that flying in summer 2022 is a mess. Given the likelihood of a delay or outright cancelation, Jenoa and I expected our first flight with six and a half week old baby E to be rough. But I was pleasantly surprised.
Our flight from Richmond to DFW was only delayed by about forty minutes. I couldn’t say the same for other, earlier flights along the same route, though. I think one flight that was supposed to depart at noon had been delayed until 11pm. People were visibly stressed.
But we felt a strange sort of solidarity, even camaraderie, amongst everyone in the airport amidst the frustration, an experience shared by passengers and airline employees alike. I’ve wondered how much the visibility of the stress contributed to this feeling — it was the first time I’ve flown since March 2020 that we weren’t required to wear masks in the airport. But it was also the first time in a long time, probably in my whole adult life, where I didn’t feel a sense that everyone was just determined to stay in their lane, and avoid the inconvenience and awkwardness of other people. In its place was a collective atmosphere of appreciation for and mutual recognition of other people’s humanity.
A few examples come to mind:
- The woman who joined us in line waiting for a seat at Concourse A’s sole bar/restaurant and began sharing unsolicited the woes of her flight that had been delayed for 10 hours at that point, who said she “just needed a drink”.
- Megan, the sole waitress waiting tables in the restaurant and had been working since that morning. She told us she wouldn’t get off until the restaurant closed, which was “whenever everyone had their flights rebooked”, yet she kept a smile and positive energy about her.
- The young woman working at the Concourse A newsstand who was joking around with the young boys of the visibly harried couple in line in front of me.
- The family in the restaurant whose flight to Florida had been delayed who were enamored with baby E.
- Another family flying to Palm Springs that struck up a conversation with Jen and were grateful for our recommendations in the area.
- The airline employees conducting crowd control while simultaneously trying to board us and rebook everyone else.
- Justin, the ebullient flight attendant who loved E and offered us some Bailey’s with our coffee, which we declined since we were trying to stay awake for the flight.
- Baby E, whose curiosity and joy become more apparent each day.
There’s no shortage of stories and thinkpieces in mainstream media right now about how disunited we are, to which I say, maybe. But last Monday I felt a solidarity amongst strangers that I hadn’t felt before. Maybe after two and a half years of technocratic micromanagement, our being forced the “crack in everything” — our economy, our political allegiances, our technologies — has in fact been how “the light gets in”. In Richmond airport last Monday, we were just a bunch of normies trying to get to our destinations and being thwarted at every turn, but we had each other.