6/7/07 – It does amaze me sometimes.
Apparently I have a look about me that people feel comfortable confiding in me some of the deepest, most personal information about themselves – even if I have no idea who they are.
With my friends, I'm good with that. I love my friends and if they need to talk I'm here for them. Always.
But... complete strangers is a different situation altogether.
Case in point; flying out of Fort Lauderdale airport this afternoon, standing in line for security, the TSA agent directed everyone that there is actually 2 lines to form (absolutely nothing indicated this the way the security queue was arranged) and he suggested people move to the left line which was shorter.
The woman standing in front of me turned to me as if to ask, “is he serious?”
Seeing the look on her face, I shrugged a bit and said, “Hey, if the man says there’s two lines there must be two lines somewhere.”
She smiled a little and we both moved to the left and walked around some people.
“So, where are you going?” she asked in a very soft voice.
“The state or…”
“No, no.. Washington D.C.” said knowing the question I was going to ask. “It’s very exciting for me. Today is the first day of my life.”
“Oh, really? How is that?” I asked.
“Well…” she hesitated as she looked up at me finally making eye contact, “..I’m starting a new job… and… just… getting the hell away from here.”
“So you didn’t enjoy Fort Lauderdale? How long have you lived here?”
“Four years. And no, I thought this was the place I was going to make it, but…” tears welled in her eyes. “So what do I have to do? Put everything metal in the bin?”
“No, just any laptops, camcorders or anything liquid.” I suggested to her as we reached the security table. “Anything liquid has to be in a ziplock… so if you need to pee, you have to pee into the bag.”
She laughed a little. Tears diffused. I was thankful, but I knew what was coming.
“This has just been an unbelievable day. This morning I was in court, my ex had a restraining order placed against me. Can you believe that? And his wife, who I never even met and didn’t know he had… filled one too. Said I threatened her life.”
“Wow,” I responded, simply hoping she would not tell me anything more.
“Yeah, so now I get to fly away and start my life over. Three years I spent with him. I loved him so much and all he did was lie to me and use me.”
Tearfully she walked through the metal detector. I pushed her belongings and my belongings to the conveyor belt and followed behind her.
As she put on her shoes she asked if I needed help with repacking my carry-on.
“Thanks, that’s kind to offer, but really I do this almost every day. I’m kind of a pro at it.”
I was hoping such a statement would take the conversation to a new course, but she returned right to telling me every detail of her life. How her ex is a budding rock star (aren’t we all?) and he never told her he was married until right before he stopped talking to her. Then he called to tell her he was leaving his wife but needed her to stay away for a bit.
A couple weeks later – BAM – she got served papers to appear in court.
Suspicious, as always, and knowing a lot of women are indeed crazy - especially a woman who would spill all this to a total stranger – I kept a bit of distance, but lent an ear to listen.
Trying to get her off of the subject and stop her from a complete, tearful breakdown right in the airport, I asked some other seemingly mundane questions.
“So, you’re not from Ft Lauderdale originally… where did you live before this?”
“France? Are you originally from France?”
“No, I’m from Romania.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed that either…” she indeed spoke English flawlessly with no discernable accent. “So what made you decide to move to America?”
“I wanted to make something of myself.” She responded, “No one in my family has ever made anything of themselves. I came here to do that. I was doing pretty good, working for a real-estate agency and doing database programming for them. It was easy but they never figured it out. So after I did it, they begged me to stay, but I had to leave. I really had to leave. I had to get out of here. I can get a new job and live somewhere else, but what do I do about a broken heart?”
She started sobbing again. I handed her a napkin from the kiosk pantry on the concourse.
“Thank you… I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be telling you all this… I just.. don’t have anyone here. I moved here alone. I have no one to turn to.”
*Sigh… and here’s me… what word is stamped on my forehead? Sap? Sucker? Too nice of a person to just walk away?
So I listened… and offered her the basics… time will heal your heart… everything will work out… you need to move on… but of course I was torn. Torn between my empathy to want to help someone in obvious pain – and my desire to get her to just stop telling me all this. I didn’t need to hear it. How about, “So, how is the weather up north?” or, “What brings you to Florida?” But she just kept unloading… until her cell phone rang. She paused to answer it. She was happy to hear the voice on the other end but the conversation was too brief for me to escape.
“That was the lady I’m moving in with. Such a nice family. They had a room for rent so I’m going to stay with them. They actually call me to check on me to find out how I am. It’s such a relief when I feel so alone all the time.”
“Aw, that is sweet. Glad you were able to find someone to rely on.”
“Yes, it is a blessing.”
“Well, I’m sure everything will turn out ok in the end. It just might take time to all work out.”
“Will you pray for me?”
What a question to ask someone. Who shall I pray to? I’ll pray to the airline that they don’t crash our planes today. The look I gave her as she asked that probably indicated to her that I don’t.. really.. pray.
“I’ll keep you in my thoughts.” I said.
“Thank you… so, you travel a lot? What do you do?”
“Well, I own my own company. Right now I’m working on a contract for a vendor doing installations in hospitals for them.”
“Wow, that’s cool. I want to own my own company someday.”
“It’s an ambitious endeavor, I wish you luck.”
“Do you ever travel out of the country?”
“Not yet, but I have a job coming up in Australia and in the fall I might have to go to Saudi Arabia.”
“Australia! I’ve always wanted to go there!”
“Yes, I’m looking forward to it.”
I attempted to cut the conversation off as they announced boarding for my flight. But she again continued with how she has had plans for this and that, and if the restraining orders stick it could jeopardize her citizenship process. And then began telling me how they drink wine as a meal in France….
Thank goodness for last calls.
Not that I’m not empathetic to her plight – honestly I am. She got used by someone who didn’t treat her well, but maybe there was something else behind it to. Regardless, there are a lot of people in this world who are simply out for themselves.
Maybe I’m becoming one of them.
But I still listen when people need someone to talk to....
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