24 Hours in Airworld: Morning in the Terminal
Travel Blog • Rob Verger • 06.10.09 | 8:14 AM ET
I slept, kind of, for a couple hours, my blue rain jacket pulled over my head. I had managed to get a good spot on one of the leather couches by Gate 14, and awoke early this morning as Flight 819 boarded for Santo Domingo in a loud rush of Spanish. (Did you know that, in keeping with airport superstition, there’s no Gate 13 here?)
Outside, the expanses of the Kennedy airfield I can see now are gray with fog. A tall cup of coffee (the Illy place has been open since 4:30 a.m.) is making this morning feel a little more manageable. But now I’ve been hanging out here for about 20 hours, and a lot of that time has been somewhat less-than-fun.
Without a flight to catch, without any way to organize the time besides the random structure I have chosen to give it, and besides the pursuit of meals, the hours have stretched on here, with no promise of reward of arrival at a new destination. It’s been cold enough that trying to stay warm has been one of the most frequent thoughts I’ve had. I feel exhausted, jet-lagged in a sense, although I have not changed my latitude or longitude. In all honesty, the idea of hanging out in an airport—no matter how new the terminal, no matter how nice the Wi-Fi—is much nicer in theory than in practice.
But still, there have been moments of unexpected happiness while I’ve been here: Like chatting with Michel, a security guard who, as part of my agreement with JetBlue to hang out in the terminal, has been my contact here; originally from Haiti, he’s a kind man with an easy laugh, and has four teenagers at home in Brooklyn, two of whom are on their way to college next fall. Then there was the passenger last night who managed to score a bunch of blankets from JetBlue and handed them out at about 2:30 a.m. to others who were spending the night here, myself included. And there were the two people—thank you, Kenia from Pequillo and Juan from Illy—who offered to give me my coffee for free, small gestures that meant something to me, even though I didn’t accept.
But mostly, right now, as the terminal comes back to life and the place fills back up, I am thinking of what every traveler dreams about more often than he may care to admit: my own bed.