Here I sit.
The harsh fluorescent lights illuminate a nearly empty crew lounge. It’s late. And getting later by the second. Across from me sits a veteran Captain slowly sipping a cup of coffee. I suspect he and I have several things in common, but on this dark rainy night, it is only one thing in particular that matters: we’re both staring down the barrel of a very long night.
I’ve always said that the biggest part of surviving in this gig is accepting that sometimes your day gets completely screwed up, and while the natural reaction is to do something, anything, about it, usually all we can do is wait, watch the weather radar, and then the clock. For this lot of Type A folks, this isn’t always easy.
So I sit, and silently wish this place had better lighting. Rig it for night running at least. Get some of that mood lighting you’re putting in the airplanes. Something to match this most uncivilized time of day. Its quiet down here in the bowels of the airport. As it should be. No chattering crews swapping war stories, no phones ringing, no one using the microwave, just quiet.
I need some music. Because of course I do.
This unique, and somewhat bleak setting requires the appropriate soundtrack. Nothing too loud, but not so mellow that it puts me to sleep. When your night doesn’t end until after the next sunrise, falling asleep before it even starts is less than ideal. In the interest of finding something different, something out of my usual rotation, I settle on Mezzanine by Massive Attack. Just the right blend of mellow rhythms and edgier beats and lyrics. The ebb and flow of this record is just enough to hold my attention while I sit and wait.
The Captain across from me gathers his belongings and crumples the small paper cup held in his right hand. Shortly after, his First Officer responds in kind. For them, it’s time to work. These two men are taking a ship full of people to the other side of the country at this very late hour. I wish them a safe journey as they pass. Most people take for granted the effort it takes for this two man crew with their team in the cabin to get from point A to B in an uneventful fashion. I see it in his face, just as he might see it in mine. The work is serious and must be taken as such.
With the delays mounting, Teardrop passes through my ears. It’s a fitting analogy. Sometimes the efforts we make to move metal and people feels much like putting teardrops on an out of control blaze. We are tasked with doing our level best to complete the mission, and we do, but sometimes things just go sideways. It’s the business we’re in. The life we have chosen.
Sarah Jay Hawley sings Dissolved Girl, followed immediately by Black Milk with Elizabeth Fraser, and I’m immediately reminded of another favorite: Lebanese Blonde by Theivery Corporation featuring the very talented and much underrated Pam Bricker. The tone of these songs fit the mood in this place where so many crews have traversed, going to and from duty assignments both chosen and assigned. It is in this moment that I’m sure I’ve chosen the right music for my late night appointment with airport appreciation.
Exchange brings Mezzanine to a perfect ending and still I wait for a schedule update. I can see the writing on the wall, but duty binds me to this chair to wait for the official word. Go or no go. I think I know which way it’ll break, but I’ve been wrong before.
So I wait, watch the weather radar, and the clock.