BUD: Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport final arrival time 8:40
I stand near the tiny but crowded baggage claim, waiting for my blue Tumi to rise up out of the mass of generically packaged belongings. You’d think that these suitcases, containing the most necessary items passengers could think of accompanying them throughout their travels, might warrant more creative expression when it came to their size, shape, and color.
Everything from customs to the small WizzAir jet that brought me to Hungary is a blur. I just know I made it, the last passenger to board the plane.
My blue bag slides down the belt along with ten other generic bags. A small skirmish breaks out between my Tumi and me as seven or eight passengers jostle one another so he or she can be the first to claim his or her valuable belongings.
A bearded man is looking up at me from beside the scuffle. I make eye contact with him, and he points to my bag and then to me. I bob my head in what I think is a noncommittal shrug, but he takes it as a yes. Pushing past the squabbling passengers, he dives forward. The next thing I know, my luggage is sitting beside me. We trade this blue bag for a modest smile.
Pulling my suitcase, I pass the other passengers and make my way to the arrival gate. The security guard at the gate gives me a pleasant nod as I walk towards the sliding glass doors.
I’m reminded of another airport when I think back to these Hungarian doors, the Aeropuerto de General Heriberto Jara, better known as the Veracruz International Airport (VER). I had just arrived, fresh off the plane from the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport to Mexico. Being one of only two Americans on the flight, it had taken the custom’s officer about 5 times as long to interrogate me in Spanish. Why are you here? Where are you staying? When will you leave? Stamp in the passport and I was shuffled inside to the baggage claim.
It was in this glassed in enclosure surrounded by chatting Mexicans and one American in a suit where I came to terms with the fact that, honestly,
Traveling is an excuse to put your awkwardness out for the entire world to see, and airports mark the grand entrance for this to begin.
Like I mentioned before, I tend to travel light. My carry-on blue Tumi and my small black crushable backpack are carrying my life for the five months I will be traveling around Europe. But I’m embarrassed to say I packed an equal amount for my two-week trip to Mexico. Time and luggage do not directly correlate.
It was with these bags that I passed through the luggage security screening in the Veracruz baggage claim. The wheels squealed and clicked across the scuffed floor as I turned to face the glass behind me. Like every other airport I had ever been to, I waited patiently for the glass door to slide open, allowing me access to the hallway where a man in a TSA uniform sat guarding the arrivals gate. He sat there, hunched over, eyes half closed, pretending to read what I imagined was an official-looking document on the wooden podium he was leaning against. I glanced up to the top of the door, wondering why it hadn’t opened yet. I waved my arm to the left in front of what must have been the door sensor. Nothing. I waved my arm again, higher and more frantically.
“Señorita! ‘Left!’” the customs officer cried.
He was gesturing wildly to my left. To the already open doorway I had neglected to notice.
Wow you’re an idiot. The tune seemed to play over and over in my head as I swiveled my luggage to my left and walked through the doorway, shoes clicking loudly on the hard flood. The TSA officer smirked as I walked briskly past. Obviously the glass had been extremely clean.
This door at the Budapest airport is equally as clean, but this time I am prepared for it. I watch the passengers in front of me walk through the doorway and I follow suit.
I’m immediately engulfed in a hoard of people, all of them awaiting someone they had left at this very place days, months, perhaps years before. They are patiently or impatiently tapping car keys on thighs or readjusting small paper signs.
I imagine them wondering if they will be picking up the same passengers they dropped off before.
It has been twenty hours since I left my home in Holland, MI, USA to come meet Flóra in Budapest, Hungary, and it is only 9:00 in the morning. Most passengers might complain about the jetlag. I just enjoy the feeling of leaving today so I can arrive yesterday.