The calender tells us we are in the middle of Spring Break season, which seems to be running unusually long this year. Kids are out of school, parents have scheduled vacations, malls and airports are jammed with families and college students "getting away from it all".
Spring Break makes for a very interesting travel time for us business travelers. You know us -- we are the frenetic, cell phone/blackberry connected, caffeinated, yes-this-qualifies-for-carry-on-only, wrinkle-resistant, beat-you-to-the-gate travelers that can tell you where the nearest bathroom is in pretty much any US airport and where to get the best value for an airport snack.
You gotta have a lot of patience when traveling these days -- the tourists move slowly, apparently never having heard of a little thing called "airport security" and the "passenger screening" process; the parents with their "little darlings" in tow, who seem to believe that the airport corridors and furniture are actually their own little personal playgrounds; and the college students....well, what is there to say about them? What I try to do when traveling to increase my overall patience level is a lot of observing of the world around me. This helps me wile away the hours waiting for a delayed plane or waiting for checked baggage to arrive.
This is what I observed yesterday as I waited at baggage claim after arriving back from from San Diego:
My flight was full and the majority of passengers were of "elite" status, including me. So, instead of giving the elites the opportunity to board early, every one had to board row by row. I had a seat in the 6th row, which meant I watched pretty much everyone else board with their carry-on bags, computer cases, baby strollers, nappie bags, kiddie suitcases (don't even get me started on those...) blah, blah, blah. I knew that by the time I got on, there would be no overhead space and I'd have to have my bag checked, which is exactly what happened.
After I retrieved my bag at baggage claim, I noticed a number of college aged boys walking toward the exit, tanned, bleary eyed and wearing HUGE "si, yo estoy gingo-estupido" sombreros. They were obviously just returning from spring break some where south of the border, where they probably spent boatloads of their parent's cash doing tequilla shots off of various co-ed's tummies.
Right behind them were three other college-aged boys and a girl, dressed very differently. They were in army fatigues and walking out of the airport with family members. I couldn't really tell if they were home on leave or home from basics or just plain home.
I was struck by the juxtaposition of the two groups. Both the same ages, but living clearly different lives.
Although I am proud of the fact that people make a choice to serve our country, I feel very badly that this administration put them in a position where they have to go overseas to fight a war that should not have happened in the first place.
Putting political commentary aside, I think that most of us (at least those of us that think and listen and read) would agree that we ended up in Iraq under very false pretenses and have put thousands of people of all ages there in peril.
I watched the soldiers and wished that they could have been coming back from their spring break, tanned and full of crazy memories -- not memories that may make them crazy.
I also felt a twinge of "oh jeeze" about the sombereo chicos....I'm sure they had just a great time -- from what they can remember. I hope that they did not act the part of the ugly American tourist and that they are grateful that they CAN go to Mexico and live it up, while others in their peer group are worrying about a lot more than scrapping together beer money and passing their next exam.
I probably sound a bit judgemental -- am perhaps I am being so. The image just stuck me and stayed with me as I drove from the airport all the way back home.