I liked the place from the time the plane landed. It was night-time and American Airlines was late again (gonna rant on them separately – in too good a mood). We hurtled to a stop at the gate an hour past plan and then walked off the little flyer over a two-foot-wide bridge to the terminal. It was the cutest little thing, that plane. The bridge, although smaller, was NOT SO CUTE.
The first thing that struck me as I walked through the gate was the stares of everyone as I walked past. It was like how small-island people watch fresh blood arrive on the rock with open-faced curiosity. Everyone watched me rush to baggage claim with my hair flying straight behind me and my scarf trailing off the bag I’d slung over my shoulder.
And then I noticed the second thing. It was ME they were staring at. The other passengers got the passing glance I had expected from the city-dwellers in the home of the Steelers! Sudden burst of panic and a flashing image from a zombie movie hit me until a little boy strayed into the path of my half-run-half-walk with the most gorgeous open-faced smile with his grubby finger pointing up at me. I couldn’t help but grin back a silly grin while his daddy swept him up and smiled an apology at me. Panic gone, I realized the gazes were not unfriendly. I decided to take them as acknowledgment – I’m a tall woman in not-so-bad shape in a pair of knee-high black boots. Why wouldn’t people stare?
The third thing I noticed brought be back to center. The only people of colour other than my tanned self that I came across in my entire airport experience were the rough and loud, P-Diddy and Apple Bottom wearing hard-ass African American. There were four of them. All there together – one family. GOT IT.
Pittsburgh wouldn’t have a CLUE of what to do with a tall, smoothe, British educated, half-latina Caribbean woman in Ann Taylor and Tahari. The total confusion I could now clearly see made me smile to myself as I hauled my bags off the belt and across the airport under the casually curious gazes.
The airport was a cross between the Miami airport I remember as a little girl in the 80s and today’s JFK. It is efficient and unpretentious, aged but pleasant. Winter was evident in the caps and scarves, coats and boots, the funny little kids dressed to be as wide as they are tall and the well established darkness outside. The people were pleasant and getting on with their business with purpose and smiles. Politeness was loud and clear in thank-yous and excuse mes as the airport hustled out with the feel of a new city. Dark carpet gave way to a 1970’s tile job clearly chosen for its functionality rather than good looks as I rushed to the Super Shuttle counter.
The Super Shuttle guy didn’t see me approach. He was singing and dancing and didn’t see me until I said hi the second time! When he did see me he jumped, sending some stuff from his desk clattering to the floor. “You scared me! But I’m easy to scare – especially when I’m singing and dancing to myself.” HILARIOUS! Surprise turned to confusion as he heard me speak. I repeated myself slowly and smiled a teasing smile at him as he processed my accent.
I sat for a while waiting and processing the tone, sight, smell and sound of the place and found the words innocence and openness, curiosity and growth, repeating over and over. Before getting to where I was staying I had made up my mind. I like this place.