While waiting at the airport

Airports are a great place to observe a lot of things. I have just spent ten hours waiting in three airports—Bangalore International Airport , Pune airport and Nedumbassery International Airport Kochi. There are no direct flights from Pune to Kochi—and the various permutation and combination that involved the least fare and the least amount of waiting time between flights still left me with a good ten hours, to do whatever I pleased within the confines of the airport walls . And yes--I feel quite at home at Airports, much like Tom Hanks in ‘The terminal’. :-)

One of the jobs I have held is, as a ground crew in an airport in Mumbai with a well known airline, many years back. So I could very well relate to the ground crew in all the airports, the pressures they work under, the problems they face and above all, the way they have to be super polite to the passengers (Or guests if you happen to travel on kingfisher!) no matter even if they have had two depressing, maniacal, ready-to-drop-down-dead night shifts in a row and the pot bellied asshole guest/passenger’s gaze does not go above their chest level.

You see all kinds of people at an airport terminal. There are usually the well traveled yuppies. They know where the electric sockets at each airport are located—and as soon as they have their boarding card, they make a beeline to it. Out comes the laptop—in goes the plug and clackety clack go the fingers. They remain buried,modern ostriches, with the proverbial head in the sand, the sand here being replaced by a state of the art laptop, oblivious to the world, till the boarding announcement is made. Some unique specimens miss that too and the ground crew, has to hunt for them, scouring the length and breadth, the nooks and crannies of the airport and track them down. Once the boarding card is issued the flight cannot take off without you.

Then there is the nervous travelling- with-the- baby-first-time couple. The baby is swaddled in layers of blanket, sweater and a woollen cap covering the tiny head and ears completely. Each whimper brings on a fresh set of worries. The baby usually sleeps before boarding and screams through out the duration of the flight, non-stop. If its decibel levels could have generated energy like in Monsters Incorporated I think the energy generated would be enough to go around the moon twice and back.

There is usually also the Pretty young thing (PYT), travelling alone. The PYT can be identified by the number of DYMs (Desperate Young Males) all occupying seats around her ,pretending to be busy but noticing every little move she makes, out of the corner of their eye. They don’t miss a single thing. She is usually bored, uninterested or already has a boy-friend waiting.

There is also the old couple travelling together. I find most of them really sweet. It reinforces my faith in relationships, in love, in life. The husband will usually ask the wife is she is hungry, tell her to rest her feet up so they hurt less, will go and get a cup of coffee or tea for her and usually are very engrossed in each other.

Once I have encountered a drunk well dressed lady who was carrying two bottles of Jack Daniels in a transparent polythene bag, and everyone around her was trying to avoid making eye contact, while she was hunting for anyone who would listen to her talk. I felt sorry for her. Loneliness can be a terrifying thing.

The video I have posted above from the Movie Love actually is one of my favourite scenes in the movie. The lines are so meaningful.

Airports teach you many things about Human nature. All you have to do is look,not just see.


  1. uhh 10 hrs of wait ..i would be dead on the way. Thats the total flight time from Netherlands to India..infact less. I have spent some time on airports - waiting for connecting flights and its killing. I also spent that time observing people..their moves, their actions, their behaviour - the old lady travelling alone in an international flight with no other language skills besides hindi, a lady travelling with 3 kids - again lacking language skills and kids running around and screaming hard enough to shake the plane, a young business traveller engrossed in his own world of documents - when laptops are not allowed, a lovey-dovey couple lost in their own world of hugging and caring. Its amazing...an airport is a world in itself!

  2. Ya...I hate those ostriches...like they are workin on some multi-million projects...useless fellas!

    never travelled wid the baby on board..but can understand...but it will be fun...baby cryin at such an altitude :D (Flights are too silent for me)

    nd I always get stuck between those old fat guys...who have to get out to aisle twice..even if it is 1 hr flight!!

    PYT...where are you????

    i guess i have to share JD next time!!

    btw really nice post...waitin for book!!!!!!!

  3. very very handy blog!di..
    On time for me to take my trip back home alone this time(first time) ..
    in another few weeks!
    hmmm.. I think this would be an intersting way to look n learn..
    As long as I am not caught looking too hard..
    U see I look and forget to take my gaze off while thinking about it later..
    so for an on-looker I might look like an eye-stalker..:P

  4. i can pass time very well watchimg people...i don't mind waiting anywhere as long as i 'm outside and not really in a hurry, i love watching the people around me. That's why the MRT (local train here)rides are never boring, you get to see a lot...

    and me thinks, another common point between us :)

    nice post, preeti...

  5. Life begins: It wasnt ten consecutive hours!!Yeah--airports are a world in themselves.

    Prakhar:Babies crying are horrible!!:) Trust me on that!

    Swathy: Heh heh :-)

    Suma:Thanks :-)I'm sure you get many story ideas too while watching people, right?

  6. Ohhh i love those lines from Love Actually as well! Its one of my fav movies! :)

    I love airports for the differing emotions everyone has...there will be the nonchalent business men/women to whom this is just another day...
    the eager teenager who is travelling alone for the first time...
    the young kid who is so fascinated by the fact that he can fly in the air...
    the jaded mom, having taken too many trips alone with her two kids...
    the anticipation of the alone girl/guy going home to family/sweetheart...
    and sometimes there is the person terrified of the prospect of flying, breathing hard and trying to keep a cool exterior...
    it really is amazing to see how many emotions come about in that 10m by 10m of boarding area...

  7. Each time anyone whined about waiting or getting delayed anyplace...I would wonder what their problem was...cos I for one loved it. I can sit for hours, and not get bored...and this was the best time to observe.
    The old couple you mentioned, yes! I see them too...and it really fills you with an " aaww...." feeling, and you come away with a " I can make it work too" knowledge

  8. Airports, railway stations or Bus terminals is one such place where you can see people from diverse cultures, backgrounds and personalities. I love watching and observing people at these places.

    But then if I'm in a hurry I would not like any delays. They would bug the hell out of me! :D

  9. Such a nice post!

    You are really adept at classifying people into types :D , Orkut x-men coming to my mind.

    I could identify with the post somehow, though I've never traveled by air. Maybe it was coz of the DYM part. ;)

  10. Raouf: thanks :) Yeah--maybe it was DYM. :-)

    NM:Somehow at Railway stations and Bus terminals, i hate it..I just want to get i over with, and will usually bury my nose in a book.

    Prats:yes--the old couples really fill me with those kinds of thoughts too.

    Sunshine: me too!Me too!!

  11. I simply love the time I get before boarding the aircraft. I've even tried peeping into those ostrich's laptop screens. :)

    You don't just get to look, you get to learn a lot of things too.

    The technology used in Monsters Inc should be introduced in our flights. We'll definitely see the reduction in air fares.

    Hey you forgot to classify me. I am this Handsome young guy (HYG) who's not so interested in PYT ;)

    That scene from love actually is beautiful.

  12. Awesome post as usual. :)

    I somehow never manage to think of all these stuff wen in an airport,great observation.. :)

    btw,if am not mistaken cochin airport ain't INDIRA GANDHI Intl. Airport..Its actually christened Nedumbassery Intl. Airport commonly known as CIAL.. :)

    actually,i say this coz i hpn to be frm kochi and am kinda sure of it.. :)

    never mind it.pleasure reading ur posts and am eagerly waitin for the book... :)

  13. Varun: Yeah--I love that scene too! And why no PYTs? Is it because you prefer OMWs? ;-)(Older Married Women) LOL--sorry--could not resist that :-P :-)

  14. Multi Menon:Yes--I stand corrrected.Amends made!Thanks for that! :-)

  15. Nice post, Preeti, and yes,, that is a great clip from the movie.


  16. waiting can made fun if you take time to observe things around you... though I have not waited at airports, i have had long waits at many other places,and observing people is one of the best way to make the wait a fun thing.

  17. Yes..airports are emotional cook pots for many..esp in our country..coz unlike in west where people travel so often and dont stay away from home for long, in out country people go abroad for a livelihood..sometimes to come back only after a year or two..So the departing is especially more painfully and the joy of seeing someone back is more strong..I try the max to avoid anyone seeing me off at the airport....but it never works out as parents insist on seeing off...I am wavering away from the topic as the video stuck a chord for me..:-)

  18. I normally have something to read at the airport..or the laptop gives me company!! and ofcoz i use the laptop for watching a movie!:-)

    I rarely end up talking to people in airport lounge..but often end up conversing with co-passengers if they are likeable..I have had once traveled 5 hours with an old german couple from Hamburg to Dubai ..but the conversation was all an "avial" of English..German..and sign language!! ;-P

  19. Scotty:Thanks--and yes--I love that clip too.

    xh: True--but some people are just not interested n observing others.Each to his own i guess :-)

    Mathew: Hah ah ha--Avial of all three was too funny.Uusally even i strike up a conversation only if I find them interesting enough.And as you said, though i felt sad saying bye to my mom, i was eagerly awaiting getting home to be with my kids and satish--and sitting at the airport, i felt so fortunate that i have people waiting for me.And what a welcome I received--they made me feel like the Queen :)

  20. Airports.. gotta love em'

    Definitely a place one wouldn't get bored at all. And terminal is one cool movie.

  21. hahaha.. thats alright...

    OMW's OMG!! :D

    Its just that PYT's are good only when they show some interest and moreover there's lot of competition from DYM's :). And I believe in waiting for a day when HYG's like us are surrounded by DYF's (Desperate young females). The air hostess's and ground crew are any day better.

    BTW, you come up with good acronyms :)

  22. I'd prefer to be the PYT but I will prolly end up being the PFT (Pathetic First Timer)

  23. True, airport is the most happening place...thats what made the Terminal movie quite interesting!! Well, you didnt said wh the drunk well dressed lady said?reserved it for your next post..? Interested to know...My guess is that she wud have asked you the way to BAR?

  24. Nice post :) i still remember how i carried D when she was 3 mths old first time on the flight. panicky ! ;-)

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  26. Cris: Just saw your pic--yeah u'd qualify to be a PYT :-)Dont go around telling people about PFT hiding in you :-)

    Varun: Ok! No OMWs for you then ;-)Only BMWs or whatever you prefer. :-) :-)

    J:I loved the terminal too.Since when did your blog become a closed blog?And hey--please see my book site.

  27. Sri: i did not talk to the drunk lady at all.

    Chitra: me too! When i took my son when he was three months old, i was so scared! I was traveeling alone too--just my baby and me.

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  29. not very sure about enjoying the waiting part; an hour is fine, but more than that it becomes plain restlessness, atleast for me. maybe if it was a new place each time around,then something to hold your attention for all those long hours. no denying though the first 1/2 hr or so gives you ample scope for entertainment!

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  32. The last line says it all - LOOK, not SEE!!
    Yeah - so much happening around us - but how much do we really absorb?

    I love traveling and prefer trains - cos it allows me some think time!
    You should see the folks in the trains... also very classifiable..!!

  33. LOL! I've fallen into everyone of those categories at some point or the other. now my parents do the old couple one very sweetly...


  34. Mad Momma: I came to your blog yesterday,to read that old post again where you had talked about having kids pics on blogs, as I was disturbed after a phone conversation with a friend. I liked your latest post a LOT :-)

    Arjun: long time since I went in a train.Plan to soon :-)

    Onlooker:To each their own! :-)

  35. You forgot;

    1. The Bawdy Bunch : A family of minimum 6 and atleast 2 kids who make the lounge their own playground, indifferent mom with her ladies magazine and loud dad on the phone shouting it out to the person at the other end which makes you wonder whether he really needs that phone

    2. The Disapprover: Seasoned traveler who has a million ff miles to his credit and has been flying since 10-20 BD (before Deccan) and looks at the melting around with faint disapproval not masked by the financial magazine and the blue tooth headset

    3. Mr & Mrs Drift(ing Apart)
    He is buried in a excel sheet and she in a Barbara Cartland (or Jackie Collins) and the romance in..well its buried. Not-so-newly-married couple uninterested in anything. Only lasting link b/w them seems to be the boarding cards he carries

  36. Airports are really nice. Its amazin watchin ppl go and come. Relations reinforced, sweet parting aways and even more heartful meetings....

  37. I somehow prefer railway stations to airport..!! Whoever is coming to see you off cud wait there till the last minute..n u can wave them a bye or tell something even after the train departs slowly..In airports thats not the case..After u take a turn(security check)theres no going back..unless its the climax of some romantic film..!!

    But I must say ur observation is really good..Especially the 'baby' part..!!


  38. Hi Preeti,

    Airports really are a haven of limitless interest! I felt for the lady with the Jack Daniels you mentioned. In one of my flights here, one lady passenger told me her entire story of divorce and re-marriage. At the end of it I assume she must have felt better, but I definitely felt depressed!

    Visited your blog after quite a break. A lot seems to have happened. Hearty Congratulations on your book! I'll definitely keep an eye out for it. Wish you many more successes ahead!

  39. Not most people's favourite place to be in but definitely a source of great inspiration for writers, wouldn't you say? :)

  40. You know...I felt exactly the same way when I used to frequent trains when in India ten years ago..

  41. OK, that's a coincidence. I hadn't read your post before I posted on my blog. I just spent some time in an airport too.

  42. i love airports...its my make believe place...whenever i travel, i create a persona...the uptight business man, the drugged out student, the goofy mallu...its an escape...its anthropology , my way...and like u said, its a great place to just watch..coz if u really look at things, in life too we are just coming and going...like a great big airport..

  43. 10 hrs?? dats mighty long if you ask me. the longest i've spent at an airport is 7-8 hrs for an early morning 6:00 am flight to delhi from mumbai...
    wot with a frnd working in the marketing division of a leading air hostess academy and another who tried to be an air-hostess, i have heard a lot abt wot goes on behind d scenes...
    and from the the types i have seen who board the flights nowadays... its a dam hectic job... and tht to with a requirement of staying up on ur feet almost all day!! its hard...

  44. Airports....not exactly my fav place.
    Seriously, I really dont really see anything...I have my eyes peeled on my 2 kids who tend to disappear as soon as I take my eyes of them.:-(. Actually hate travelling alone with them. More than the journey they tire me out.
    Through out the journey they'll ask me when we'll reach.. Just as the plane is descending they decide to go to sleep & I have a terrible time waking them up:-P
    Now u've put it up so well that I just have to look out for these characters:-)....but I have noticed 'the old couple' travelling together... yes so sweet & touching to see them taking care of eachother

  45. oh then you will love railway station and trains...longer journey...lesser comforts...reveals much more about people...including oneself :)

  46. I love watchng people at airports too...but I must say my favourite people are the little kids...especially love playing with those toddlers who go around exploring stuff with no inhibitions.They are fun for everyone except the poor parents! :)

  47. Preeti,

    Good observations. Airports, Railway Stations, Bus Terminals and Govt Offices where you have to wait for long time observing people around has three distinct advantages :

    1. It makes your wait seem short.

    2. It sharpens your mind as a psychologist.

    3 It gives you ideas to write about what you feel while observing some of them as to what they are or are feeling.

    Nice that you relate to ground staff. They do have to keep smile pasted even while dealing with a******s who pester them. I have all my sympathies for them.

    Take care

  48. :)....had a great time reading it..
    Loved 'The Terminal'....hope our airports were a little better though. Have had pretty bad experiences...

  49. I have never boarded flight so far.. but yes, when the trains were too late or a long journey, i've seen people longing to see dear ones, few traveling alone, others holding their baggage tight...

  50. It is (in this day and age) very unimaginable...but I have never flown..(I've fallen down the stairs a couple of times and been catapulted over the handlebars of my bike a few times)...but I know exactly what you speak of.I have the joy of sitting many times in the waiting room of a crowded railway station..on observing the miriad pasengers...like so many ants..but each as individual as you or I..each going home to loved ones..off to meet lovers ...job interviews..business meetings...tourists..all humanity is there!..oh how I often lean back in my chair outside to gaze into the sky and see the silver aircraft carrying hundreds of people right above my head..every one a life as complicated as my own...to see you look ..to observe is to know.

  51. heheh...ohh boy, ifelt as if i can tottaly relate to this post of urs as i have observed most of these things and now i have come to a point where during my travels and airport waits i show - i dont care, bored attitude for everything...

    recently, i did think abt the plight of the staff and how they do hav to be polite and stuff and how false it feels...

    another bad thing iobserved during an internatiobnal flight of mine is - the crew in this well know airline behaved so badly to some of the less educated unfortunate tarvellers...this did piss me off a lot....

    there is so much u can just watch and c by waiting at an airport and stuff....life is no so easy any more na...airports are interesting places and they can be annoying places too..hehe

  52. what about those who make a beeline for the snacks counters the moment they enter.....love watching people esp kids hovering around snack counters....

    the airport sure is one funny place..no matter how much of heating there is sometimes....it never seems warm and cosy.

  53. I haven't traveled much by flights. Trains are my forte :) And you can really see true human nature good and bad on trains. I have seen my share of flashers, lechers and sometimes genuinely nice people around. The former make it difficult to trust the latter and I always find myself wondering whats gonna happen next ... but despite all this.. Trains feel like a part of home.. (yes i travel that often).

  54. Awesome post. Clearly made me chuckle. great one

  55. Ps,
    Airports and even Railway stations are the best places to observe people, ranging from PYTs to old auntie uncles.

    If not with something to read, I always end up looking at how people react when its time for boarding to how families take care of the kids.
    Also, people speaking alien languages.Their mannerisms etc.

    Nice post Ps.


  56. Nice post...

    I actually can be correctly as yuppies; Even if I have no work I would rather take out my laptop and play Age of Empires/Chess/Scrabble or just simple net surf.

    Its any day better than ogling at PYT which anyways has a boyfriend waiting....

  57. I really like the time at the airports (provided my flight does not get delayed or cancelled :(). It's the only time I sit 'still' and look around. The post reminded me about quite a few things and the best being about a guy whom I met at the airport and liked very much and who happen to sit with me in the same flight for 7 long hours :p Not bad at all!

    P.S: Thank you for the e-mail, I feel honoured :)

  58. Wooow..10 hrs of waiting n ur thinking only abt the positive aspect..pat on ur back!

    Check my blog when u get the chance..therez sumthing for u there.

  59. be it an airport or a railway station...or even a bus stop...its fun to watch people around you..!!

    there is so much to watch...so much to learn....

    i just love being in such crowds..nice write up..

    will have to read your book, soon..


  60. Ver nice post - I love observing at airports too - and I am never bored. I will usually be reading a book but I will observe as well. I enjoy riding in trains in India more....the vast variety of people, what they do for a living, etc etc - it amazes me!

  61. Shachi: Oh yes--I too love watching peiople and usually I too will be reading a book!

    Vinz: cool icon (playing a guitar) :) Me like! Yeah--book will be out soon :)

    Pavi!: Sure thing--thank you!!

    Stillthinking: Nice!Yeah--I like that part about airports too--you never know whom you could meet ;-)

    Prats:Well--you never know which PYT has just broken up with her boy friend!;-)

  62. Nikhil: Thanks! Yes--even railway stations are a great place.

    Nimit: thank you!

    Inolongeram:I feel the same way about flights.I like trains too (as long as they are clean)

    Gazal: At airports, i'm totally at ease.Yes--some do make a beeline to the snack counter too.

    Enigma;Yes--even I hate the way some airline staff talk down to people, just because they are not educated.The basic thing when they train you for these jobs is to RESPECT each individual.But the thing is some individuals are hard to respect!

    Niall: You are a GREAT observer my friend.Now you HAVE to fly to India!

  63. Manasa: yes at railways stations too one can observe a lot.

    Pranay:Some airports are lousy.Bangalore International airport is now looking great.Very clean too.

    Jack: You summed it up well.thank you.

    Wannabe: oooooh yes!!! i agree 110%!! Little kids are fun except for the poor parents.

  64. Mystique : Yes I have travelled by trains too. But that was years ago.Must make a trip again.

    Reflections: Mine stick to me.They are terrified of getting lost, at an airport or train station.So luckily I dont have to keep a hawk's eye.I can blink :-) But yes--travelling alone with kids can be hard.

    sam: Yes--but 10 hours were not consecutive.

  65. Tys: you wont believe I too thought of the same analogy! And yes--we are just travellers.

    Sue: one time before too we had a similar coincidence when you ha posted that picture of blue flowers--remember?!

    Solitaire :-) Yeah--railway stations have similar scenes.

    Devil Mood ; Oh yes--a great place for writers

    Vijaya: thank you!!

    Geetha:Somehow persoanlly i like airports better. yeah--and babies are like that. maybe the high altitude hurts their ears.

    Chaggaholic: true!!

    Harish: oh yes--the inputs you gave does make my piece more complete. Well said!

  66. Interesting post. Love the references to movies reminded me of monster inc and stuff I watched so long ago!! :D


  67. Aah airports.. I have done this waiting around in airports a lot.. I like to think its a hobby now!! ;) Have you ever done it in Singapore airport? that's the worst/best! I once helped a middle aged man shop for his teenage daughters and wife. He had been on a 2 week trip to LA and had not got them a single thing.. He was so frantic and obviously lost I helped him shop for them in Singapore airport!!

  68. I haven't been to airport much. I went twice to send off or receive my friends. Thats all. But, by watching people in other places like... super markets, railway stations most of the times fun...

    You really sum it up !!!

    And the video is great !!!

    Cheers :-)

  69. i was wonderin which category would i fit into. i think sometimes, the laptop geeky person and sometimes the desperate-male-seeking-a-lonely-sexy-chick creeps into me. ah, whatever!

    this post is true to the core anyways.


  70. Anonymous10:59 AM

    Really nice post. I have been traveling so much over the last two years that I wanted to write about airports myself. Now I will just link to your post!

    About the ostriches - trust me, airports are wonderful places to get work done. I love transit time that I can use to clear up old mails, clean my mailbox, make those reports that the boss has been killing me for the last 30 days, code etc etc.

    However, here's something from my first trip to the US. You see, coming from India, I wasn't used to being a witness for PDAs (yeah, Public Display of Affection). So, once in the airport at Philadelphia, I ran into a couple who couldn't help showing everybody around them how much they loved each other. My flight was delayed by 12 hrs and through some weird coincidence, the couple kept running into me no matter where I chose to sit. And then, when we were finally boarding after 12 long hours, the couple managed to sneak right in front of me in the boarding line. And I thought they had had enough of all that affection, but apparently not!

    - Vinay

  71. Anonymous5:07 PM

    I read somewhere :
    The development of the city is judged by takeoff/landing of an aeroplane/s in a minute.

  72. I can completely identify with you when you say babies yell like there is no tomorrow. It becomes excruciatingly difficult to catch 40 winks when you are traveling overseas and the biological rhythm is already in a mess :-) Your eye for detail definitely caught my attention ;-)

  73. Oh yes airport ( railway stations etc) is a place where one can see rather look various characters...

    Indians specailly from south dont show emotions in public like other nationalities do...still face conveys it all..

    Yes terminal is a great movie...like in your subsequesnt post you have mentioned about dream..how badly one wants..this movie is all about endurance and perseverance..Tom Hanks did well ...

    - sunder

  74. sometimes we make friends at airports too...meeting new ppl...observing their behavior...we get to know new things...


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