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Take a Break from Work

An airport is one of the best places for people watching.  Last week at the Denver airport I chose a seat facing a wall of windows where I could see two Southwest airplanes parked and the ground crew working.

            Those workers were like ants around an anthill.  One drove a baggage tractor that pulled a loaded wagon from the building to an airplane.  Another lifted all the baggage – suitcases of all shapes, colors, and sizes, cardboard boxes secured with orange duck tape, golf bags, and big canvas bags, probably carrying infant car seats – from the wagon to a conveyer belt that moved the baggage into the belly of the airplane.  But before lifting, the worker swiped a device, like a big watch, on his left wrist over the white airline tags attached to the bags and boxes.  That device probably created tracking records in case baggage became lost.

            A worker inside an open cargo door of the plane took bags from the conveyor belt and threw them into a dark cavity out of my sight.  Another worker drove a small jeep under the plane’s wing, stopped, got out, bent low, and looked at the tires.  A man dressed in a pilot uniform carried a clipboard and walked around the plane. 

            As the other airplane moved backwards, four workers walked under the wings and in front of the plane and motioned with huge flashlights to indicate that the pilot should continue to back up.  Putting flashlights aside, they waved with their hands stretched high as the plane turned. 

            Wearing uniform long pants, long sleeve shirts, bright orange vests, and ear noise protectors, the ground crew was a team.  All doing their jobs.

            Then an oversized white van stopped near the parked airplane.  Snownie Ambulance was written on the van’s side.  Was someone hurt?  This didn’t look like an ambulance to take a patient to a hospital.  The driver, dressed in dark shorts and a white-shirt, lifted a metal table with holes from the back of the van.  He set the table on the paved ground and placed gallon jars, filled with brightly colored liquids, upside down in those holes. 

            A couple of the ground crew workers sauntered over to the Snowie Ambulance and were handed snow cones.  One immediately used the lever on an upside down jar to cover the ice with red syrup.  The other squirted several colors on his snow cone. 

            Within a few minutes, more than a dozen strong looking men and women were eating snow cones and talking.  I couldn’t hear them, but their smiles, their shoulder punches, their high-fives conveyed a party atmosphere.  Southwest Airlines celebrated its 48th birthday last week, and I’m guessing the Snowie Ambulance was part of the celebration.                    It’s interesting that something as simple as snow cones brought frivolity and a sense of community to grown men and women who were working just minutes earlier.  My spirits were lifted and I didn’t even get to eat a cherry snow cone.