A Day in the Life: Bursting bubbles


Around 101,491,000 people travel through the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport each year and this spring break, I became one of them. As the rest of my friends bathed in the sun in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, I started my trip home to Bethlehem from a short visit to see my sister in Georgia.

Nadine Elsayed

Nadine Elsayed

But while I sat in the airport waiting for my flight, I became hyperaware of the people surrounding me. One lady sat near the wall by an electrical outlet speaking rapid Spanish into her charging cell phone. A couple further down stayed close together but focused solely on their tablets. Another man sat alone finishing his Popeye’s dinner with one hand and combing through a copious amount of paperwork with the other.

There were hundreds of people around me waiting for their flights, but we weren’t actually together. Each person was living their own life and their own story — each a separate bubble that would barely ever interact with another.

I was a single bubble in the midst of thousands of other bubbles.

Halfway through hour two of waiting, however, I decided to burst that bubble. I moved next to a man sitting a few seats over and introduced myself. He seemed flustered at first but after determining that I wasn’t a crazed psychopath — because who else would just introduce themselves to a random stranger at an airport? — he started to open up.

The man’s name was Henry and each word he spoke dripped with thick Southern flavor. He was 29 years old and had never left Savannah, Georgia, where he was born and raised. Interestingly enough, Henry’s first flight was that day and it was for a special occasion — a marriage proposal.

Henry first met Naomi when she sat across from him at a Barnes and Noble bookstore near Savannah State University. Henry studied biology while she studied marketing and up until that point, their worlds had never collided.

“She sat a few tables over, but I knew the second she walked in that she was special,” Henry said. “She radiated this energy, and I knew that I had to talk to her or else I would really regret it.”

But by the time Henry had almost mustered the courage to speak to her, she already packed her things and left the store. Henry said he was disappointed, but continued to read his material and go on with life.

A week later, he was driving off campus to a dentist appointment and was late. As he weaved through lanes, Henry saw smoke coming from a car pulled over in the distance.

“I saw a car on the side of the road and there was so much smoke near the hood,” he told me. “Honestly, I debated not stopping just because I was so late, but I figured that if that was my mentality, it could be others’ too so I pulled over.”

Before I could even guess that it was Naomi, Henry began recounting a real romantic montage. After helping her with her car, he finally worked up the courage to ask her out for coffee later that week. That coffee date turned into a dinner date, which turned into a hiking date, which led to many more outings.

“I fell in love with her a little more each time I saw her,” Henry said. “I have never wished ill on anyone, but I am so thankful her car decided to smoke like a dragon that day.”

Seven years later on a beautiful weekend in March, Henry sat next to me in the Atlanta airport and told me how he was going to propose. He showed me the wedding ring he planned to give her that had been in his family for generations. He laughed at how surprised she would certainly be to see him in Boston since she knew he was afraid to fly.

He expressed just how excited he was to spend the rest of his life with his best friend.

As their love story continued to unfold and my heart continued to melt, I realized how grateful I was to have gotten the courage to get up and talk to this random stranger.

Prior to us speaking, Henry was just another bubble with a story I would have never gotten the chance to hear. Afterward, he was a man nervously awaiting to board a plane he was scared of but only to ask the girl of his dreams to spend the rest of her life with him.

My perspective completely changed with just one conversation.

The point of this column series is to get individuals to extend their consciousness to others around them — whether that’s through direct conversation, a course of action or even common courtesy. By reaching out and getting to know someone new, people can open their minds and hearts to brand new ideas, stories and people.

So introduce yourself to the person sitting alone on the front lawn, or to the girl standing behind you in line at Upper, or to the boy across the room at the party. You never know what might come out of that one attempted connection. It could be a great story. It could even be a marriage proposal.

All I have left of Henry is a passionate story and a general knowledge of which state he was heading toward. I won’t ever know if he made it to Naomi or if she even said yes, but I do know that moving those few seats over certainly made waiting for a flight much more enjoyable.

Nadine Elsayed, ’18, is a multimedia editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].

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