The Terminal: Airport diaries 

If anyone has watched the Tom Hanks movie called The Terminal, you will catch the theme of this post. If not, go watch it, it’s a very intriguing movie!

In the movie, Tom Hanks plays a character who is stuck at an airport terminal (JFK, New York) for months, with a passport that was deemed invalid, due to a war that was going on in his home country of Krakozhia. Now I happen to be a pro at spending countless hours at airport terminals (pre-checkin).

My first instance of spending excruciatingly long time at the airport stemmed out of a fear of missed flight connections. I spent close to 15 hours at the Des Moines International airport, reaching 8 hours in advance, due to a winter weather advisory. I was hoping to catch a morning flight that was subsequently delayed over 7 hours, due to a snow storm. Which led to a chain of delayed and missed connections, with a long halt at the prestiged JFK airport. I spent an entire night there without a valid ticket out of the country, while I was travelling back to India.

There, I befriended an Angolian girl who was caught in the same situation, and I also finished AND submitted my final report for one of the courses that I had taken in that semester. The only charging ports that were available were at restaurants, which had been closed for the night, so we hunted down a spot and alternatingly charged our phones and laptops.

The second airport “all-nighter” that I pulled was in a recent travel. I was in Chicago for a symposium, so it made sense for me to book a direct flight from there back to India. Only, I had no accommodation for a night, so I decided to spend the night at the terminal again, possibly thinking of replicating my previous crazy overnight adventure at JFK. But this time, I was prepared. I stuffed my bag with snacks. Got my laptop out, watched videos on YouTube. Kept trying to find a cozy location to sleep. Thankfully Chicago O-Hare has a plethora of charging points at the terminals just before the checkin counters.

This time, I realized that I wasn’t the only weirdo playing this game. There were several airport transit all-nighter people like me. Now you might think, how big of a hole does it burn in a girl’s pocket, to go out and explore the city or check into a hotel for a night? It’s a purely mental thing. It makes me feel better about splurging money at other times. Also, I’m always up for new and interesting experiences!

It was interesting to see how well prepared some passengers are, for these all-nighters. There was one man who had a sleeping blanket and a bed-sheet that he spread on the floor behind the seats, and slept peacefully. Those who were thin and flexible, slid themselves below the armrests and slept on 3 consecutive seats. Ingenuous travelers! I adopted the same technique on my flight to India, when the girl occupying the next seat left it for another.

Now, I wouldn’t say that spending long hours at the airport is fun, but it is definitely a different experience. Plus, at the end of it all, nothing beats the excitement of “going home”!


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