I’m not sure there are any other buildings that encompass the range of human emotions quite like airports do.

I have spent many happy times filled with anticipation, standing at the arrivals gate, waiting for one of my children to arrive home. At Christmas, in particular, it’s a place of happiness, tears of joy, hugs and kisses, often with a background of joyful carol singing. I’ve seen grandparents meet grandchildren for the first time, shy partners being introduced to his or her significant other’s parents, and lovers reunited after they have been away from each other.


Of course, I have also spent sad times at departures, saying goodbye with just as many tears and hugs. But departures is also where I go when I’m visiting one of my children or when I’m heading off on holidays, so it’s not always a place of sadness.

Airports are also places of high stress from trying to get through security to getting to your gate on time. Security checks can not only induce stress, but also impatience – and even a few angry moments. I’ve seen people nearly explode with anger when the person in front holds everyone up as they have forgotten to put their liquids in a bag or forgotten to take off a belt or whatever. I used to think I was very organised and would sail through security, but now I set off alarms every time due to my knee replacement.

We’ve all seen someone racing through the airport, obviously trying to catch their flight, and maybe we’ve wondered what made them late and if they made it. It’s no joke to be running along corridors, ducking and diving as your name is being called.

Once, due to a flat tyre, I heard: “Would Margaret Leahy, the last remaining passenger on flight X, please go to the gate immediately as your flight is due to depart.” Putting this over the tannoy every minute as I try to break the one minute mile record for running isn’t really helpful.

On the one occasion this happened, I made the flight and sat down among some glowering faces who blamed me for our five-minutes-late departure. I say once, because believe me – if it happens to you, it will only be once. Now I’m at the airport in time to drink gallons of overpriced tea and feel empathy as I watch someone else make that mad dash.


You see all sorts of people while sitting in airports. There’s the women in white jeans and tops looking gorgeous, who I know will arrive at their destination looking every bit as good. This is a skill I’ve never managed to achieve. There are peoples from all over the world, speaking numerous languages, some dressed in clothes that indicate their culture or religion. I’ve had many random conversations with other travellers and heard life stories that I’m not sure would have been shared in other settings.

I’ve met a woman waiting for the remains of her brother to arrive from New York, a man waiting to meet a half sister for the first time and numerous parents waiting for adult children to come home. We don’t know why people are travelling, so maybe we should relax a little when the person holds up the security line – who knows what they are travelling for or to.

As a people we travel, we emigrate, we come home and we leave. Some leave to see the world, some to work and some decide to leave just for the craic, wondering if the grass is really greener on the other side. Most of this movement happens at our airports which are built to be transportation hubs but are so much more. They are places full of people in transit from all over the world trying to get from A to B with full hearts and broken hearts, anticipation and dread, joy and sadness.

Where ever you’re flying to next I hope you get there without having to run through corridors and you go with a sense of anticipation of good times ahead. Bon Voyage.

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