Arriving at the airport an hour before another friend of mine I sat down at perhaps what may be considered a front-running contender to Disney as the happiest place on earth. For anyone who is having a bad day or wants a bit of cheering up, all you have to do is go to your nearest airport and wait at the arrivals area when long distance international flights are coming in. It was 9 pm Sunday August 7th at the Calgary Airport and at least 3 large international flights were just arriving from Europe. The arrivals area was as packed as a sardine can near the doors that greeted the new arrivals. Mulling around were families, friends and strangers who were there to welcome people from around the world as well as to welcome people home.
Looking at the faces of those waiting, they were full of smiles, laughter and anticipation as they anxiously paced around waiting for a glimpse of those they were waiting for. As the first of the arrivals cleared Canadian Customs and walked through the frosted glass doors, faces lit up and greeters ran up to hug the anxious arrivals.
Within minutes I glanced around to see joy filled faces and an atmosphere of excitement, smiles and laughter. I could not help but smile myself to see the fun that everyone was having as they met long lost friends and family. I saw one Hispanic father wiping tears from his eyes as he along with a 3 other family members greeted a young lady and a child. I could only imagine the stories that could be behind the tears as a long time family member finally received a visa to be reunited with the rest of their family.
Moments later an elderly German couple greeted a young German speaking couple in their 20’s as they conversed, hugged and snapped a few photos. Arms flew into the air as they embraced each other with beaming faces.
One young girl proud of her Canadian heritage was passing out small Canada flags to the visiting family that included parents with a 12 year old boy and 14 year old girl. The Scandinavian recipients were only too happy to wave their flags and stick them in the sides of their suitcases as the flags flapped out the door, following the hosts to their car.
Another lady in her mid 20’s reserved yet friendly and warm, greeted an old couple. They chatted for a few moments and as they walked away I heard the young girl point out, “It must be 10 years since I last saw you.”
One young man was handing out his duty free cigarettes to his guests as a welcome gift. They were quickly unwrapped and prepared for use.
A comical moment came as I witnessed a Middle Eastern man with his wife and teenage daughter. They greeted four new visitors from the father’s home country. The visitor warmly welcomed the hosts with a traditional four kisses on alternating cheeks. He first greeted the father, then the mother. The teenage girl however was a little unsure as to her parents traditions and stopped after one kiss on each cheek.
Another group where a family was greeting another foreign speaking family were all huddled together for a photo. The photographer went back and forth three times to figure out how to get the camera to work before the flash finally went off to the cheers of the families being photographed.
I spotted two young teenagers who were calling on the pay phones to the side of the lobby. They were trying to reach the person that was supposed to pick them up. Although they looked a little lost and bewildered, they soon found their mother who came over to them while talking to them on her cell phone. She was explaining how she was waiting for them on the other side of the lobby.
Looking around I saw a bouquet of two dozen fresh white roses greeting one young lady, a happy birthday helium balloon to greet a young child and another fresh bouquet of summer flowers. It was interesting to be a spectator to such warm welcomes and happy faces.
I could only imaging the stories behind the tears, hugs, smiles and stiff handshakes (that some of the men exchanged). I could hear German, English, Spanish, French, Scandinavian and Middle Eastern languages in this melting pot of cultures. Backgrounds and culture were obvious in the manner of dress among those arriving for the first time. What truly made it a delightful experience was the energy and excitement that radiated from the room and from all of the people that slowly filtered out the doors. 45 minutes after the excitement of the bustling evening, the room was quiet and still. There was hardly a person in sight.
I looked up onto the arrivals board and the only two flights left were from Las Vegas and Los Angeles. There were only one or two people left including myself, to greet these more local arrivals. I guess you have to go a long ways away for a long period of time to warrant a jubilant welcome. Something I think all of us can use every once in a while. If anyone needs a really good pick-me-up experience I would have to say that the international arrivals area of the airport did it for me. I highly recommend it!
Post your story of a long lost friend or family member that you recently saw again.