Someone recently shared this on the women's poetry listserve I'm on. I had to share it too--
The poet Naomi Shihab Nye wrote up this Albuquerque Airport experience and sent to exactly two friends, who passed it on to friends, who passed it on and on . . .
Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal
by Naomi Shihab Nye
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,please come
to the gate immediately.
Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my
grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. Help, said the
flight service person. Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the
flight was going to be four hours late and she did this.
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. Shu dow-a, shu-
biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, sho bit se-wee? The
minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used - she stopped
crying. She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed
to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the following day. I
said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late, who is picking you
up? Let's call him and tell him. We called her son and I spoke with him
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
would ride next to her -- Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for
the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them
chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours. She was laughing a lot by
then. Telling about her life. Answering questions.
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered
sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag --
and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not
a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from
Argentina, the traveler from California, the lovely woman from Laredo --
we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There are
no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers --
non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one
African-American, one Mexican-American -- ran around serving us all
apple juice and lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar, too.
And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands -- had
a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green
furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a
plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, this
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in
this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped -- has seemed apprehensive
about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those
other women, too. This can still happen, anywhere.
Not everything is lost.