Finding Terminal Stories


By Kasie Whitener
Columbia II Member


The strangest thing happened last week as I traveled to and from Denver and then to and from Northern Virginia. My fingers began to itch.

Everything in the airport concourse made me want to write: all those colorful bags, rushing late-runners, wide-eyed children and distracted business people.

There’s so much motion in an airport.

I watched the different gaits, walks, swaggers, and charges of the passersby. I listed as many adjectives as I could. What was the posture like? What about the pace?

Was this person excited? Like my friend Kevin who felt so proud of himself for purchasing a book in the bookstore that he strode through the Toronto airport like a deep-thinking scholar?

Was this person frightened? Like the soldier in Japan who was headed home from the Philippines to his father whose motorcycle-wreck-coma may have already ended in death?

Did he cover ground swiftly in paces that are self-assured and oblivious to surrounding traffic?

Did she stagger under the weight of the carry-on, the diaper bag, the baby seat, and the stroller push?

 I’ve always written when I travel.

 There’s something so irresistibly universal about the experience of airports. We’re all at the mercy of the elements: weather, airlines, security, geography, one another.

 There are so many stories in airports: where are you going? Where have you been? Ever had to wait this long? How many times has your gate changed? How many hours have you been delayed?

 I love the anonymity of the airport where you are simultaneously one of a million stories that are all the same and also part of a unique experience unfolding as you live it.

 I stepped off the plane in Honolulu and my phone lit up with text messages. My Nana had died.

 I curled up on the floor under a Delta blanket in Atlanta when we were the last flight canceled and stranded at the terminal under a heavy snowstorm.

 I put back two extra shots of tequila in Detroit with another South Carolinian I’d met two hours earlier before racing to the gate bound for Amsterdam.

 I watched as the lady next to me in Philly cleaned up her spilled wine when the iPad cleverly propped up in front of her fell over and soaked her and all of her belongings.

 There’s a beautiful artistry to the mechanics of an airport. The design of the operation: bags and ticketing and planes taking off and landing. There’s also a clunky human element that makes everyone roll their eyes.

Our flight attendant from Dallas to Columbia actually called all of our names off the printed roster, like the first day of school, to figure out who was on the over-booked plane that shouldn’t be.

In all of it I find inspiration. The human condition: emotions, filth, exhaustion, anxiety. The imperfections of love, family, citizenry, and civility. It’s all write-able.

Dr. Kasie Whitener is a professional educator and fiction writer. She blogs about the writing process at GenX Stories and about her life in transition at Life on Clemson Road. Her fiction has appeared in Spry Literary Journal and Enhance Literary Magazine. She is a member of SCWW Columbia II and a board member for Wordsmith Studio, an online literary community.

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