Romance doesn’t flourish in exhaust-filled parking garages or bloom curbside at the airport. Long hugs and lingering kisses are a thing of the past. Now, they are monitored and in some cases, signs are posted regarding the amount of time allowed for public displays of affection.
There used to be something special about walking off an airplane and scanning the waiting crowd until you found your favorite face. We hugged and kissed lovers, spouses, friends, children, parents and grandparents. We walked, hand-in-hand, toward baggage claim, chatting about the flight and future plans. Those of us sitting in waiting areas would watch (cellphone-free) as these reunions happened in front of us. It was the very best kind of reality show.
And there were the tearful goodbyes. Those were the hardest to witness, and even harder to endure personally. But love existed in those moments. Tear-stained faces would press against the windows and scan the tiny portholes of the plane, hoping to see a face or hand that looked familiar. Waving like crazy…watching until the plane became a speck in the sky…we turned for the exit (and maybe grabbed a drink on the way out), lost in our thoughts.
We chose our travel clothes to impress whoever was meeting us on the other end. We sipped our coffee and chatted with people in line as we waited to go through security. Back then, it never occurred to us that strangers would see our underwear (or whether or not we were wearing any). We never thought we would be touched inappropriately while in line (except for heavy pre-flight drinkers…you know who you are!). The only benefit to wearing comfy shoes was for running through the airport, OJ-style, while trying to catch a flight last-minute. No thought was given to how easily those shoes could be slipped off and placed in bins.
I will never get over the grossness of the shoes-off time in line. I disappear into a place in my head where even the best therapist can’t find. And the random times when I haphazardly wear sandals or shoes without socks, and find myself barefoot on a floor that I’m certain is dirtier than any sidewalk in Las Vegas or New York, I make a mental note to take a Silkwood shower later. For those of you gasping, please see the above picture. I now pack a pair of clean and oh-so-grandma socks in my travel bag for just such occasions. Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back, but I effectively killed it with my airport fashion statement at Phoenix Sky Harbor this afternoon.
But even though the shoe-removal thing has an obvious downside, it also has an unexpected benefit. Pedicures. I believe that post-9/11 travel may have boosted the pedicure industry. Never have women been more aware of the status of their feet than when they are surrounded by sad strangers looking down. It may seem an insignificant way to help reconcile what happened on that horrible day, but I will take one small victory over those asshole terrorists with spectacular toes.