Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Airport

Those of you on facebook know that I've been spending a lot of time at the airport lately. The winter months are considered high season here and a lot more tourists come to visit this time of year. As a way to make extra money, Ibis sometimes sends me to the airport to pick up guests, and we also bring them back at the end of their stay. We charge less than the taxis so the guests get a deal and we get extra money.

The first time I stepped into the airport with my hand-written sign, I was nervous. Would the people see me? Would the real taxi drivers yell at me for stealing their business (something I'm still careful about...)? Would they expect me to haul their luggage to the car? Then there's the fact that we don't have air conditioning, but so far no one has complained.

Despite my nervousness, it's always gone smoothly (knock on wood) and I usually have a pleasant conversation with the guests. Sometimes we talk about the area, occasionally we end up discussing writing (I swear I try not to!), and yesterday we talked about the changing economy. I often don't see these people again, but for ten minutes they're my new friends. There are a few people that I do see repeatedly, and many of those guests have become our friends. One couple that we met last year brought me M&Ms and a new Sudoku book, while others have taken us out to dinner. We even had one woman join us for a night out with my dad before my mom and sister arrived.

But they aren't the main reason for this post - this actually ties back into writing. You see, when I'm standing at the gate with my much more professional looking printed sign, I get to watch people. Families, groups of friends, solo travelers - they stream through the sliding glass doors with a slightly dazed look on their face, most of them trying to act like they know where they're going. The repeat visitors do, and it's easy to pick them out, but most of them stumble into the heat in their jeans and zip-up hoodies, their eyes glazing over when they see all the taxi drivers shouting for their business.

Ibis' hotel seems to attract a certain type of traveler. I'd rate it a 2-3 star place; it's a great location with full kitchens, but it's certainly not a 5-star hotel. The people who choose to stay there tend to be a little more laid back, borderline quirky, and never come loaded down with twenty suitcases. As the travelers step towards me, I try to guess who will turn out to be John Smith (the names are never that normal), and I make up stories for everyone who walks past me. Some smile when they see me watching me, while others breeze past, in a hurry to get to the waiting shuttle. (My guests never breeze.)

I love watching them and guessing where they're from, what they do back home, and what their relationships are with the people around them. One group that stands out is a family I saw recently: two parents and three kids, all decked out in trendy/borderline goth type clothes. All I could think is those poor kids are going to sweat in all those clothes, and their carefully planned pale skin is going to fry! I like to imagine them playing on the beach, the pretense slowing slipping away, all smiles by the end of their stay.

I haven't brought a notebook yet, but these travelers are all in my head, knocking their suitcases against each other, looking for the beach.

Oh, and most people turn me down when I offer to take their bags, but I do try to help get it into the trunk. Usually the men smirk at my 5'1" self and toss the bags in themselves.

24 comments:

Capt Gary Hooyenga said...

Amazing what you really see if your eyes are open. With our imagination whole books can be made of that wonder....

WendyCinNYC said...

What great fodder for your writing. And next time I'm searching for a person holding a "Cebula" sign at the airport, I'm going to try to look less befuddled.

Melanie Avila said...

Gary, I've always approached life this way - but I'm only now starting to do something with all these stories.

Melanie Avila said...

Wendy! That made me crack up. :) You don't strike me as someone who ever looks befuddled.

ac said...

This sounds like the making of a screenplay for an independent film.

Also, "carefully planned pale skin." Nice work!

Melanie Avila said...

AC, I keep trying to figure out where I can use all these characters... for now they're all just building up in my head!

Nadine said...

This was a great post! So poetic!!

It slightly reminded me of the very beginning and end of Love Actually.

And I think no matter where I land, I always look a little wide eyed cause I'm always looking to see if I know anyone. I run into familiar faces at random times.

Turkey Lurkey said...

I am a very aloof/shy person around people I don't know. I will usually give a smile, but then avert my eyes and continue down my path. We've moved to a friendlier city, which has helped me to overcome some of that shyness. I often watch those travel shows and I am so amazed at how easy it is for people to just start up a conversation with a stranger. It fascinates me! (Hubby says I don't know how to do 'small talk'.) My stomach actually turned a little while reading your post. I would be totally nervous, but it would be a great way for me to get over that hurdle and just simply enjoy spending some time with our fellow humans. After all, most of us seem to share the same core values no matter what language we speak. Thanks for sharing this!

Turkey Lurkey said...

Oh.. BTW... the kids and I are all wearing black shirts and jeans... with our pale skin. (Of course, we didn't plan it... its just the effect of living under clouds for most of the year!) :)

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, I always remember that scene from Love Actually, too. There's always a lot of joy there, that's for sure. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Turkey, lol! You have a little family of vampires. :P

I agree that this is a great way to hone your interpersonal skills. I'm lucky that I've never had a problem with that - but on the flip side, I have to pay attention so I know when to shut up.

My sister once gave me one of my best compliments - she said she could bring me anyplace and leave me alone for an hour without worrying about me for one second, or something to that affect. I'll always find someone to talk too. :) Complimenting women's outfits is always a great icebreaker... I should be a guy!

Erica Orloff said...

LOVE that you make up stories for them. LOVE it!

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, the most bizarre (to me) family we encountered happened at the beach. A blond man & women with their three blond children, were with a Mexican woman and a Mexican little boy. We assumed they were friends or something until the man started kissing the Mexican woman, and they told the blond kids to look after their little brother, the Mexican boy. All we could figure it the ex-wife was vacationing with the family & new wife. Whatever works!

spyscribbler said...

"My guests never breeze."

I LOVE that line! LOL! That's great. What a cool post, Melanie.

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, that was my favorite too. :)

Janet said...

5'1"? You mean you're shorter than me??? That's quite an accomplishment.

Melanie Avila said...

Well technically I'm 5'1.5", but close enough...

Janet said...

Ah. You needed my grandmother. She sang that "Five foot two, eyes of blue" song at me so much when I was a kid, she jinxed me. In your case, it would have meant an extra half inch.

Melanie Avila said...

I do have eyes of blue, lol!

The only reason I don't feel justified saying I'm 5'2" is because that's how tall my mom is, and she is taller than me. This way Ibis is definitely four inches taller than me - rather than three - so that works too.

colbymarshall said...

Hey! I'm 5'1" too! We should start a club!

Melanie Avila said...

I think I've stumbled upon the largest club ever here in Mexico! I'm a giant compared to some of the locals.

Robin said...

That's awesome, but next time I walk off a plane, I'm wearing a paper bag over my head with two holes cut out for eyes, so I can see where I'm going.

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, sometimes I want to pull people aside and tell them how vulnerable they look. Don't they realize that other people are just waiting to take advantage?

Amy Nathan said...

You must have great stories. Sounds to me like the makings of another book, hmm?