“Flying Solo”, was written, sitting at a bar, at St. Louis’ Lambert Airfield during a layover in 2003.  I had taken a job recently for Advanced Health Education out of Houston. 

I’d leave on Friday evening after work, teach my 16-hour Continuing Education class about “Emergency Radiography” over the next two days, then fly home on Sunday night. 

It was a great experience. I traveled, made pictures, and exchanged ideas with people I might have never met.

 

FLYING SOLO

I’ve spent a lot of time lately on my own “Walden Pond” looking for reasons and answers, and “myself”. I’ve had the time to look at where I’m at in Life, and how I’ve gotten ‘here’…certainly not where I pictured myself at 36 years old.  I’ve never come by things the easy way but I’ve learned something from all my experiences, even the bad ones, so I can honestly say that I have few regrets.  Being by myself, though, is very different than it was in years past, and I don’t know if it’s the World itself that’s changed, so much as me.

 I’m in a busy terminal at St. Louis’ Lambert Field airport, hot and tired from a run to the gate, only to find my plane is delayed, again. I sit heavily in the seat and sigh as I reach up and undo the top two buttons of my respectable white dress shirt.  I work my Golden Retriever print tie until it’s knotted loosely around my neck, pulled away to let the air from the nearby vent blow across my chest.  My feet, swollen, tired, hot and sore from being cramped up in a pair of Italian leather dress shoes all day, are splayed out in front of me like they belong to someone else.

Against my better judgment and feeling a bit like herded cattle, I’ve become a “frequent airlines flier” moonlighting as a lecturer for a national Medical Education company. Other things aside, it’s given me the chance to travel about, spend some time with myself, and see the differences in travelers and people in general.

Quietly moving to the least populated area, away from the noise and bustle, I take a seat at the end of a short, well-worn wooden bar with a brass foot rail at the base.  The days of indoor smoking around here are long gone; it added kind of a hazy ambiance I think, and others seem to be captured by their own thoughts or chatting with companions.

An attentive bartender hurries over, it’s all about tips and turn-over, and comes back with their “wine selections” from which I select an over-priced glass of medium-grade chardonnay.  Turning in my stool I find myself drawn in and captured by the actions and movements of the crowds.

 Some travel like ‘bag people’, five bags slung around their shoulders and all their “worldly possessions” cluttered around them.  They drag and kick their belongings to the boarding gate, huffing and puffing along the way, and act indignant when they’re told that some items will have to be checked through as baggage.

  The young people—and I know I generalize here—are always an eye opener, but they rarely change between cities. 

 Young men with their scruffy, torn, baggy pants well below their waists and boxer shorts pulled up above the waistbands; I guess we made our ‘statements’ too. Headphones from portable CD and MP3 players glued in their ears, their heads and bodies gyrating to music only they can hear.  People say the generations are different, but I can remember my parents teeth gnashing as I blew out my eardrums with    Journey and Boston.  The more things change the more they stay the same.

Another cultural revolution is obvious in the young women with their tight cut-off shirts and below hip-hugger pants. Like a time warp from the late 60’s or early 70’s, if you wait long enough, it’s all in fashion again. 

Remembering the 80’s, when I ‘grew up’ and the fashion was big hair, preppies in plaid, and parachute pants…things change. It’s easy to see why people seem to get carded much more often than they did when we were younger!

  I think of my 6-year-old daughter and take a deep breath as I think of the trials and tribulations in front of us.  I only hope that I can remember my youth and what means little to me, really is a ‘big deal’ to her.

 Being where I’m at in Life outside observations of married people, and couples in general, intrigue me.  Infinite combinations of ages, sizes, styles, and race make me realize how we’ve bridged some pretty big cultural difference since our parents youth, but it also makes me wonder where I turned off that road—or maybe it still eludes me.

I realize, in watching them interact, how much I miss simple conversations.  How warm and comforting it would feel to come home and hear voices in the house late in the day, cooking and eating dinner together, the innate things you learn– just to sit on the couch in the evening holding hands.  My bed seems as vast as the ocean when I roll over at night… searching…

 I blink my eyes to pull away from my introspection and bring my focus back to the people sitting, standing, and rushing past, in a hurry to get on with their lives. Unnoticed, I tip my glass of Chardonnay in their direction, as a subtle toast.  My way of saying Thank You for letting me watch and share in their lives and their emotions…if only for a few brief seconds..

–Doug Clark

November 2003

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