Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A cast of characters

I was recently traveling and ran into one of those nobody's-going-to-believe-this situations. We were stranded twice by snow both coming and going to our destination and the situation gave me plenty of time to see my fellow humans in action. Not in a physical sense, because we (180 of us) were confined to a plane for 5 hours, then confined to a small airport terminal for another hour, then shuffled through a series of bus seats and hotel lobby lines for another 12 hours. It was a "hurry up and wait" sort of time as we waited for decisions beyond our control to be made and carried out.

Out of that 180 passengers, I ended up with a list of people that stick out in my memory:

*The adventurous older gentleman (and I don't use that term lightly) that braved the icy tarmac on two bad legs because he had to get a photo of the whiteout. He breeds dahlias and has had one on the best seller list for 8 years in a row.

*The young soldier that was quick to mention his time in Iraq but wouldn't give up his place in line to help a mother with an 8-month-old baby and a pile of luggage.

*The pretty young woman that did the rounds, entertaining children and helping the elderly - even offering to share a room with an older woman who was tired. She quickly bonded with a number of people and they became the unspoken tenders of the entourage.

*The weather-beaten maintenance man who's cigarette never left his lips in the storm as he loaded unclaimed bags in after the cattle-packed passengers on a bus.

*The "just so" petite blond wife and mother that tried to inform the authorities (a loose term since no one actually seemed to be in charge), her husband and her teenage daughter that she "doesn't bus". Her exact words as she sprang off the bench were "I don't bus!"

*The quiet young man who was one of the last to get a room because he did take time to help with bags and suitcases and parcels but did it all without really talking.

*The TSA agent-turned-tour guide that "jollied" the grumpier passengers into checking out the small town we landed in. His enthusiasm for his home town was evident.

Obviously, we were living a story of a particular nature during our extended hours together. Some people I spoke with and some I just observed. But in that mix of people I've seen hints of another story brewing. I'm not sure yet what I'll do with them but there's a tantalizing sense that it's all there, just waiting to be given its proper shape.

It's the stuff a writer dreams of.

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