A Chance Encounter

Airports are rich settings for writers. An airport is a place where people are in a state of flux and lives are crossing, momentarily, usually, never to meet again. Some people are running away from something and others are rushing to something; travelling for work, pleasure, life, death. Everyone’s at the mercy of weather disruption and delays, but class distinctions are clear and determined by which queue you stand in and how big your seat is.

There is also a sense of tension at airports – everyone is under a time pressure, there’s very visible security with gates and barriers, people are being herded and processed and some are being detained or arrested. Of course, post 9/11, airports have a new sense tension and anxiety. Then there are the people who are being wrenched apart, making it a setting for emotional farewells. It’s a place of heightened emotions.

Your writing prompt: Write a scene where two people meet at an airport. They’ve never met before, but their paths cross momentarily. Where are they going? What happens next? Are they in the future, travelling to another planet or is it a moment from the past, the golden age of air travel?

The Wedding Singer


One thought on “A Chance Encounter

  1. Here’s my effort:
    The family at the front of the queue were holding everyone up. I looked across the tape to the queue beside me, same flight, different check-in girl. As if to taunt me, everyone in that queue picked up their bags or tilted their wheelie cases and shuffled forward.
    The young guy behind me sighed. I glanced round.
    ‘It’s your own fault,’ I told him. ‘I always end up in the slowest queue. You should have picked the one I wasn’t in.’
    ‘We’re in trouble then,’ he said. ‘That’s my talent, too.’
    ‘Double slow-queue syndrome,’ I said with mock dismay. ‘Might be New Year before we check in then.’
    The luggage tags on the guy’s case said ‘George Wilson’. He was blonde, slim and a bit on the short side.
    ‘Doesn’t worry me,’ he said. ‘I won’t see Christmas anyway.’
    Oh man! Please don’t tell me about your estranged wife and kids or your dead grandma whose funeral you’re flying over to attend.
    I forestalled him, just in case. ‘Let me guess. You’re Santa in disguise. On your way back from your year’s vacation.’
    He gestured, pointing out that the family at the front had finally moved off and the line of people had moved forward. I dragged my overstuffed bag a few paces.
    ‘No, but I will be working,’ he said.
    This time he actually smiled.
    ‘I’m going back to Helman,’ he said. ‘Joining up with my unit first, then off to the ‘Stan.’
    I felt my face drop.
    ‘Cheer up, he said. It’ll be a blast.’
    ‘Not literally, I hope.’
    He laughed at that. Funny how military guys laugh at the darkest things.
    ‘Over Christmas?’ I said. ‘They’re sending you out there at Christmas?’
    He shrugged. ‘The Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas. They’ll still be fighting.’
    ‘Isn’t it scary?’
    George looked away for a second. Just a second. Then he looked back. ‘Yes.’
    ‘What if you have to kill someone?’
    ‘If I have to, then I will. Rather them than me. Or one of my mates.’
    ‘I hope it doesn’t come to that.’
    ‘Me too.’
    He gestured again. It was my turn at the check-in desk. It was the usual rigmarole of showing passport, tickets, weighing bags and getting my boarding pass. By the time I’d finished and moved aside, the girl at the other desk was free. George had skipped across and was loading his rucksack onto the scales.
    I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t know him well enough to say goodbye. I wondered if I’d see him on the flight, but I knew what these airbuses were like. Once you get on board you’re lucky if you see anyone twice during the whole flight.
    I kept thinking of him, not just missing Christmas but flying out to a warzone. How must his family feel? How must all their families feel? All the atrocities you hear about, all those news reports about soldiers being maimed and killed out there. It was just a chance encounter, but suddenly it all meant more.


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