Along with the rest of us weary 5:00 AM travelers in Asheville, I complain that the single coffee stand in the regional airport failed to open. How unified we all become in our bewilderment! No coffee? How? We strangers laugh about our addiction, embarrassed for our dependency. Together we deplane in Charlotte to race to the first coffee shop.
Traveling all day on little planes and roaming airports both tiny and enormous, I talk to people about their lives. I learn about careers and grandchildren. I hear about the time someone met Taylor Swift and about a high school senior trying to decide between Davidson and Boston College. Or maybe she’ll decide on the small school in Minnesota. I’m fully invested in her journey and learn about her dogs and the canoe trip she once took in Ontario (the one she wrote about for her college essay).
I learn from a grandmother about raising all her teen daughters whose best advice is to be “hard.” She says, “Make it so you aren’t their friend. Later, when they leave the house, they’ll be your best friends. But now, play it hard. Don’t let them mess around. Watch them like hawks. They won’t like you at all. And then they will.”
I take notes on all I’m learning. I munch on pricey chocolate and wait to board the smallest plane back to my life on land.
But mostly, I think of the joy of knowing people, of seeing the landscape below, and of noting how the sun rose up behind the North Carolina mountains, making everyone one of us turn gold.