I’m writing this from the airport, waiting for the connecting flight that will eventually take me to Moscow (for a long overdo visit to my family). As a columnist looking for material on the human condition, I love airports: they force people to actually interact with other people, and I get to watch what happens-live! Opportunities for connection seem to be all but extinct in a city where we struggle to qualify ourselves for the carpool lane. So I’m excited to see what happens today in the one place where we can’t escape connection. But as I look around Gate 138, I see people with their ears plugged with headphones, their eyes fixed on screens, and their fingers and mouths occupied with snacks to pass the time between flights. The only connection we’re interested in, it seems, is the one that will take us to Dallas.
Disappointing. I was really looking forward to documenting some exciting social drama; but so far, the only plot development has been a young brunette in yoga pants asking a man in a suit if she can plug her iPhone charger into the outlet he’s using (he said yes.) We were doomed the day we sold our souls to our smart phones in exchange for unlimited data, but never has our bad connection been more glaring to me than it is right now at LAX. Thousands of people around, but I think we might die of loneliness here. Thank goodness we all have Twitter.
As I sit here, silently shaming my fellow man for his bad habits, the reality of the lack of connection in my own life suddenly hits me hard. I haven’t seen my family in four years. Throughout my day, I speak with as many people as I need to get my job done, and then I gladly get into my car and drive home to my Netflix. Sometimes I spend more time scrolling through photos on my phone than I do looking people in the eye. And if I can really be vulnerable with you for a second (dear stranger I’ve never met), this makes me feel very alone.
The conclusion I’m coming to, sitting in this luxe airport chair, is one I keep coming to over and over again: there isn’t much point to my life outside of my relationships with other people. Isn’t that the thing we remember on our deathbeds-the relationships we’ve had? But my priorities-and I suspect some of yours, as well-have somehow ended up being comfort and security, oddly defined by money and routine. But what’s the point of our successes, our fears, our goals if there aren’t other people around to experience, validate, offer a point of reference? Can any man or woman truly be an island? And I mean a really happy island, with lots of palm trees and little turtles. And yet for something so universally important to our existence, human connection is weirdly undervalued.
And actively underutilized. Case in point: this awkward setting of 300 chairs smashed together in Gate 138, occupied by 300 human beings refusing to acknowledge one another, let alone take advantage of a rare, precious opportunity to connect.
For whatever reason-technological advancement, social conditioning-we have come to have very little value for the beauty, or at the very least, the vitality, of connection. I get that there are a lot of people around, and they have a persistent habit of being around even when we don’t want them there, so it’s easy to take the fact of human company for granted-and even grow to resent it. And yet for all the impatience I have for people, I cannot think of anything I’ve done that’s really worthwhile that hasn’t been about connecting with other people, can you? And even the things that we hold dearest as a civilization-art, music, scientific advancement-can any of it really exist powerfully without the sharing of it from one human being to another?
I don’t think we can’t enjoy time alone, or listen to some music at the airport without being judged by a columnist with no personal boundaries. But this airport scene has me wondering about all the people in my life. How connected do they feel? Is it something they crave but have forgotten how to do? Do they even want it at all? I remember watching all the ladies that would take classes at the YWCA in Santa Monica: instead of rushing off to their next appointments, they would stay and talk to each other in the lobby, as kids playing tag wove between their legs. These women were there for yoga and life drawing classes and ballet barre, but from the happiness on their faces, I could tell that this-this connection-was the real reason they came every week. It always seemed old-fashioned to me, something that sounded nice but I would never have time for. And now I’m suddenly struck with such love and appreciation for that little lobby: a simple space where people simply connect.
“Let’s do it, gang!” I want to jump up and yell out to the airport, my fist high in the air. I look around. Where should I start? Should I walk up to that brunette with the iPhone and ask if she wants to be Facebook friends? Hm. This is harder than I thought. I guess if human connection were always easy, more of us would be doing it.
Or maybe… instead of forcing yourself to talk to everybody around you, what about just being open and present to people? We can’t be social 24/7. But I have heard it’s theoretically possible to approach people as priorities, and not just as obstacles or obligations. So next time you’re about to mentally check out, looking down to refresh your inbox, give yourself a little reminder that in the end, the people you touch every day are probably going to mean more to you than the screens you touch every day.
Alright alright, before I get lost in sentiments, I have to go get on this flight to see my family. The last thing I want to do is miss my connection.

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