Evidence, Day One

Albany Airport, security. A scene in which a TSA Security Officer makes me laugh. 

Young Man working the lines: Miss, is this your bag?
Me: Yes.
YM: Please step over to the side with me.

Do you have anything sharp in here?
I ... don't ... think so. 
Neither do I. Opens front pocket of laptop satchel and takes out a large bag of walnuts and raisins. 
Ah ...this is what the camera caught. Inspects walnuts and raisins bag carefully, turning it over and over.

Where's the chocolate?
We have to ask, you know. Any time we have a situation like this.


Newark Airport, waiting for a flight to San Francisco. A scene in which we learn that many of us have a California.

We wander from the crowded waiting area to a vast empty space where a little boy is looking out the window.

Me: Asking the dumbest question possible: Are you going on a big airplane today?
Little Boy: Yes we are going to ... ... California.
So are we! I'll bet we're on the same airplaine!
LB: A bit confused about this. My granny lives in California. Are you going to MY California?
Dad, sensing child might be in danger talking to strangers, leaves Mom in restaurant with littler brother to join us. Small talk ensues.

Where are you from?
Where are you going?
Who are you going to visit?

We live in Chappaqua, we used to live in Los Altos. We are going to see my parents in Napa.
My brother lives in Los Altos. I used to teach in the town next door to Chappaqua. Did your parents fare OK in the fires?

Barely. Their car was packed and they were ready to go, but the fires didn't reach them. We're looking forward to being with them. 
Enjoy your trip! Enjoy your family.
Have fun in Lake Tahoe. Happy Thanksgiving!

Walking away, Little Boy: Will we see them at Granny's?

San Francisco Airport, waiting for a flight to Reno. A scene in which we learn that more than one of us has a Coco. 

We are among the last to board. In front of us a man pushes a woman in a wheelchair. She is holding two shopping bags and a cane. She looks very elegant and is probably in her 70s. There is a ramp down and then we all go outdoors to walk a distance and navigate stairs up to the airplane. The man deposits the wheelchair woman at the foot of the ramp. It's clear that walking is no easy task for her.

Me: Would it help you at all if I carried your bags?
Woman, not wanting to compromise her dignity but clearly in need of assistance. Perhaps you could carry this. Hands me her cane.

We walk behind her, very, very slowly. She uses the roping to steady her movement. Every step is a challenge. We talk.

Where are you from?
Where are you going?
Who are you going to visit?

She is going home. We are going home, too, in a sense. To the home that is my kids, their stories, their faces. "Home is wherever I'm with you," is what that cute song said that everyone was listening to a few years ago.

We are on the plane. I place the cane in the overhead compartment and the woman makes her way to her seat, a few rows behind ours. When it comes time to deplane, we wait for her. I carry her cane again, and her bags. A man with a wheelchair meets her. She thanks us.

We run into each other collecting our bags. She thanks us again. I bend down to her and offer my hand.

Tell me your name. My name is Melissa O'Brien.
Mrs. M ... And what is your name? to Coco.
My name is Coco.
Oh my, that's great. I have a dog named Coco.

It is not hard to find. But it does require some question-asking and some slowing down. There is evidence of kindness and good humor and connection everywhere all the time. Yes, most certainly everyone was looking at their phone everywhere we went yesterday. But the TSA man was funny early in the morning and the little kid owns a whole state and the elegant woman knows the benefits of a Coco, too. Inside of us our connective tissue holds everything together. Outside of us there are invisible strands of love, born of the stories of our lives, that connect us together into what we are: a giant, throbbing mass of humanity. I am not so different from the man with the brown skin checking bags; I love chocolate, too and believe that trail mix is incomplete without it. I am not so different from the little person staring out the airport window; I am mesmerized by airplanes taking off and big city skylines, too. I am not so different from the woman in the wheelchair with the chic shoes; I need help getting through this life, too.