People are fun to watch as they swim along in life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 28, 2005

Airports are the fish bowls of the world.

So, I guess that just makes us all a bunch of goldfish and guppies.

Many people enjoy having aquariums in their homes because they are relaxing and provide a glimpse into the undersea life, but for me, the same principle applies to airports.

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But instead of fish, you get to see human nature exposed and watch the gamut of emotions unfold.

Last week, a business trip required that I jet through the Huntington, W.Va., Cincinnati, Minneapolis airports twice each. It is fascinating what an astute observer can see if you just sit back and do a little people watching.

For some,

joy was the name of the game. Friends and family greeted loved ones that they hadn't seen in a while. Husbands said hello to their wives and grandparents stood bearing gifts as little "Susie" or "Jimmy" came rushing through the terminal.

Each and every person has a story and those tales are often unwittingly on display for all who are walking through airports.

In Huntington, the most powerful message was delivered without anyone ever uttering a word. A young boy stood anxiously next to his mother displaying both his ear-to-ear grin and a massive sign that read, "Welcome Home, Daddy. We love you."

As the tough-looking soldier still dressed in desert camouflage came running forward, arms wide for a bear hug, the tears were already rolling down his cheeks. It was clear even to an outsider that it was a much-deserved family reunion.

On the other end of the spectrum, a young Minnesota couple embraced with tears of a different kind. Obviously, the couple will be apart for some amount of time and the grief of separation was tremendous.

Other haggard travelers openly let their emotions fly: triumph after seeing that their plane was on time, anger from getting held up, sorrow from having to leave a family member and much more.

Some stories are not as obvious but a little guesswork will tell the tales.

The sun-tanned lady carrying neon bags is clearly coming from a beach. Businessmen dressed in their finest blues are heading to some meeting or another. A college volleyball coach dressed in university garb looks fresh off a recruiting trip. And the list goes on and on.

It is truly like peering into an aquarium with all the rich, vibrant colors of life on display.

But I wouldn't stare too long. Just like tapping on the glass, neither fish nor people like that.

Michael Caldwell is the managing editor at The Ironton Tribune. To reach Mike, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at