There were three of us — me, a 6-year-old boy and his dad. We sat together on a bench at the departures gate. And we had two things in common.
The first: We were all distracted by a pigeon waddling around in the terminal.
“Look at the bird, Mark,” the dad said. “It’s trying to find a way out.”
And the boy answered, “I don’t think it wants to go out. It has air conditioning here.”
After a brief moment, the boy turned to his dad and he asked, “So how long will Mommy be gone?” The dad curtly answered, “Before Thanksgiving.
“But look,” the dad quickly added, “the pigeon has streaks of purple in its feathers.”
The boy didn’t care. “Dad,” he said, “what language do they speak in London?”
“English,” the dad said, “just like us.”
“Good, so mommy can talk to them.”
The pigeon strutted toward the sliding automatic door, and the dad said, “Look, Mark! It’s about to get out. You should help!”
The kid ran over and triggered the sensor, but that spooked the bird so it flapped away. The kid laughed: “It almost attacked me!”
Once again, the bird walked to the automatic sliding door but, this time, the boy tiptoed so he could trigger the sensor without scaring the bird. It worked. The bird hopped outside.
The kid smiled at his dad, and the dad smiled back. And when the kid returned to the bench, he looked at his dad again: “So, um, how long is mommy’s flight?”
“Not too long,” the dad said.
As the kid inhaled for another question, the dad quickly asked, “Hey, Mark, wanna get some M&Ms?”
“Yeah! Can I try the new pretzel ones?”
And they left.
I wasn’t going anywhere, wasn’t waiting for anyone. So I stayed, hoping for another bird, hoping for another kid, hoping for another distraction. But nothing showed up, so my eyes reverted back to the check-in counter, where my girlfriend had received her tickets to Ghana 21 minute ago. And then they shifted to the security gate, where we hugged goodbye 19 minutes ago. Then I looked downstairs, at the arrivals gate, where we will reunite in four months. At some point, I left.
Like I said before, the boy, his dad and I had two things in common. The first was that we were all distracted by the pigeon. The second was that, once it left, we desperately wanted it to come back.