Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Waiting at Schiphol

Airport lounges can be interesting places. I’ve been sitting by the library at Schiphol biding time during a layover. When I was here last year I roamed all over the airport, traipsing from one pier to another, taking in the sights, enjoying the slippery music that is the Dutch language. This time around I sit by a mock fireplace and watch other people do their roaming.  

I have a pair of books with me that I’ve been reading, “contrapuntally”, for the past few days. Amit Chaudhuri’s spry potraits of Calcutta and Nasreen Munni Kabir's interviews with the Indian poet, Gulzar. There is also a laptop, an iPad and an iPhone, all of which are intermittently coaxed to snare a WiFi signal and check Facebook. The books may be heavy with words but Facebook is the new oxygen.

A family comes to sit opposite me in the thick cloth armchairs. A mother with three young children; two girls and their younger brother. They are delighted by the faux fireplace and take turns touching the screen, amazed at not being burnt by the leaping flames. The older girl, gap-toothed with a wide grin, claims her mother’s cellphone and takes pictures. Her brother tries to steal into every scene. He is clearly the darling of the family, bouncing on chairs, mewling like a cat. He performs antics and they laugh with him, caught in the slipstream of his delight.  

A steady swirl of people walks by as we watch and wait. Corporate executives in smart suits, old ladies in wheelchairs, teenagers sagging under the weight of their backpacks. A flight attendant leads a young child by hand to her departure gate. A woman eats a plum. Across the hall, somebody sits down at a piano and starts to play. It is the theme from “Amelie.” We still ourselves and listen, immemorial in our brief, shared experience.


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