Every time I walk through those double sliding doors and see the lines upon lines of people waiting to check their baggage, to get their boarding passes, to move on to somewhere new, I envy them, for they might be going somewhere I have not been.
Thousands of people pass through the Calgary International Airport’s doors every day, for all types of reasons. Some are on pleasure vacations while others toil at business, and some airport employees simply carry on with their duties.
Long lines, early times and cancelled flights. Sometimes airports can be difficult to navigate without losing your mind. People sleeping on more than two seats, babies crying, and flight delays are some more things that irritate other travellers.
Building a survival plan
Some of Calgary’s frequent flyers have become immune to the airport’s many difficulties. Acquiring Nexus cards, they are awarded special privileges, letting them pass through the airport in a third of the time as a regular passenger. Since they do not need to wait in so many lines, there is no need for them to be there two hours early.
Frequent flyer Trent Gall has been travelling for years and has developed a routine to avoid airport traffic — once past security, you won’t find him walking about. “I hide out in the lounge, it’s into the lounge and out. So, I have a very different experience, I think the [airline] lounge helps make the airport more tolerable for a frequent flyer.”
But there are many more happy memories connected to airports than of boring waiting periods. And those good memories are the ones that keep us connected to the airport.
Destination weddings, moving to new cities, family gatherings and volunteer trips are just a few more reasons to travel; flying towards happiness, love and new lives. We don’t consider how much we rely on airplanes to take us places.
But of course, with the help of airport transit, at times we can become unaware of the airport’s magnitude.
Vancouver resident and former Calgarian Robbie Hebert passes through YYC International just over half a dozen times a year. “I don’t really consider Calgary home anymore and I spend so much time on buses, ferries, and trains that the airport is really just another form of transit for me.
Since my first step into that airport when I was just a baby, it has become a home between homes.
Now that technology has sped up somewhat I no longer have to wait in long lines to check in, mostly because I don’t check my carry-on to avoid waiting at baggage claim. However, for this trip to Europe, I make sure to check my big suitcase.
I use to be nervous when passing through security. I’m not entirely sure why but I have now gotten over it. I’m usually faced with a polite conversion from the security guards as they either clear me through, pat me down, or attempt to pack my bag again.
My pink and green camouflage carry-on full to the brim with shorts, tank tops, shoes and makeup, rolls on the tile floors as I wander around looking for the gate printed on my ticket.
People stare at me as I always carry around a stuffed animal on my trips. Never small enough to fit in my carry-on and always too big to fit in my backpack, so I carry it in my arms. A piece of home to come with me as I adventure through the bright, wide corridors of a home between homes.
When carrying around my friend, I tend to interact with little children who are also in the position of carrying around a friend. I once met a little girl standing in line carrying a soft pink elephant. “I really love your elephant,” I said. “What’s his name?”
She responded after looking at her parents for approval to speak with the weird 20-year-old at the airport. “Horton,” she said. “I think your dog is really cute.”
Ready to board the journey
Past the duty frees waits the dozens of airplanes sitting at the gates, one of which that will carry me far through the clouds towards the horizon of a new adventure. Whether I’m revisiting someplace or going someplace I’ve never been, I will always find something new.
Walking around the gate, I scour for a few free seats together as right next to someone makes me anxious as I’m sure it would make them rather uncomfortable as well. There are rarely many seats available and my friend and I are forced to either stand or sit on the cold tile floor.
The sun rises and shines down on the snow-covered city, citizens preparing for their day, while other travelers around me have already been up for a couple of hours. Flight attendants speak into their PA microphones and announce the departure of a flight number starting with zone two.
My ticket says zone three, so I wait.
Friendly smiles greet me as I prepare to leave my hometown. Feet thud and stomp down the gangway towards the small blue seats with unsanitary tray tables in front and I am greeted by more friendly attendants’ smiles.
I can’t wait to get to where I’m going. I can’t wait to feel the sun on my face and no longer have to bundle up for the cold weather.
Each airport around the world is different from the next. Some are huge, some require you to wait much longer than others, some possess interesting stores and restaurants but every airport has the same base necessities.
Once my trip is done, I fly back to my home between homes. Where I will first be greeted by a blast of cold Calgary winter air and then by the sweet warm embrace of Calgary’s International arrival terminal.
People returning home and people moving on, everyone has a place to go and a family to see. Everyone is on a different adventure. Everyone is on a different path.
Past one more security point and beyond the last set of sliding doors hiding baggage claim from outsiders, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, partners, grandparents and friends wait to wrap their arms around their returning loved ones.
For some folks coming home, the best part is getting into their own beds and seeing their families. One of Gall’s favourite things to come home to is his own fridge. “Where you can have your own fruit, or an apple or juice and you don’t have to go to a restaurant. Because when you’re on the road you’re eating out three meals a day.”
I know who waits for me beyond baggage claim. I know what happens next. Another ticket, another flight, another adventure.
Editor: Emma Stevens | firstname.lastname@example.org