Airport travelers: Friends afar

Strangers tumble out of planes rubbing their eyes from lack of sleep while others scratch their butts.

Saba Khalid August 22, 2012
There’s something magical about letting yourself disappear in the music of your mind and losing your heart to absolute strangers in their conversations, their actions and their journeys.

Like a ghost, I sit on one too many buses and trains just observing people. I take mental notes about their mannerisms when they’re not watching. I make up stories about where they may be headed, who their lovers may be and what they might have overcome in their lives.

I fall in love with some and end up hating others. And though we never even exchange a single word or glimpse, I learn from each one of them.

However, with all the strangers I’ve watched, the most interesting are the ones I see at airports. It’s as if travel — or rather, long layovers, transit flights and uncontrollable static in your hair — brings out the best and the worst in people. Strangers tumble out of planes rubbing their eyes from lack of sleep while others scratch their butts when no one’s watching. Some travellers are confused about where to go next, others are ecstatic about the possibilities to come.

Bindiyas and sarongs, turbans and topis, skirts and abayas surround me. Toddlers clutch their stuffed toys, excited travellers pose for pictures and some disappear into airport toilets to come back completely anew.

Doors swish open, doors swish close. Visas are stamped, visas are denied.

Uniforms are changed, floors are swept clean. Boarding passes are printed, smiles are exchanged. Facebook statuses are updated, exotic pictures are uploaded.

Old strangers disappear into departure lounges while new ones pour out from planes. And I watch with sadness for the ones who walk away to catch their next flight and with glee for the ones to come.

And when they finally call out for my flight, it feels as if I’m leaving friends and lovers. It’s as if I’m leaving quiet conversations midway because within just a few hours, they all become my strangers, my people, my lovers, my family and my friends.

And through it all, my biggest regret becomes not saying goodbye.

Read more by Saba here.
Saba Khalid A blogger for Rolling Stone magazine, a contributor to Kulturaustauch and Musikexpres, Saba is an Institute for Foreign Affairs (IFA) Cross Culture scholar for the year 2012 who also teaches creative writing to young aspiring writers. She blogs at and can be found on instagram as @thecityalive
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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