The People of the International Airport

In the hours I’ve spent among them, I’ve determined that there are at least 8 types of people who you will encounter while looking for a airport shop that sells a toothbrush for less than $14.

Guest Blogger Friend: Jon Furman – Furmanifesto

I’m of the opinion that traveling to different countries and interacting with people of different cultures can help you to understand the whole of humanity.  I’ve enjoyed many travels across our globe, and in doing so have attempted to understand the people who I’ve come into contact with.

That said, there are some versions of humanity that it seems nearly impossible to comprehend.  Of course I’m talking about the people who you meet in the international terminal of the airport.

The people of the international terminal are a people apart.  I suspect that this is because we are forced to study them removed from the context of their homeland.

Whether their flight has been cancelled, or they’re merely suffering from the misguided idea that a 12 hour layover is worth saving $150, they are a people group desperately seeking a place to lie down in a land where every cushioned bench features multiple armrests, every floor is tiled with frozen linoleum, and every outlet already has a phone charger plugged into it.

It is among these conditions that the people of the international terminal are forced to wander the halls of an airport filled with tax-free, yet still overpriced goods.

In the hours I’ve spent among them, I’ve determined that there are at least 8 types of people who you will encounter while looking for a shop that sells a toothbrush for less than $14.

These are the people of the international terminal:

The Venus in Furs

Somewhere in the line that passes through X-ray security there always seems to be a human being dressed as some sort of bear.  This usually includes a long overcoat, a round fuzzy hat, and fur-lined boots.  I call this person The Venus in Furs.

Whatever country The VIF is from doesn’t seem to have gotten that memo from the 19th century about animal cruelty.  This isn’t because because fur always equals cruelty, it’s because the heads and feet of the rodent that she is wearing seem to feature quite prominently in the hide that she’s swaddling herself in, and this is cruelty to the small children in line.

Editor’s note: The Venus in Furs isn’t exclusively female.

The Germophobic Tour Group

Sometimes you see a large group of people wearing painters masks moving in unison through the terminal.  It’s best not to assume that there is a hospital at the airport and 30 doctors have just been scrubbed and prepped for their procedure.

Stay far away from them.

This is a group of people who are either sick, or are terrified of becoming sick.  I don’t know where these people are from (are they evacuating a zombie plague?) or where they are going (Is it possible that they will be expected to begin their stuccoing jobs as soon as they land?) but it’s likely that this mystery will never be solved… because we can’t see their faces.

The Family With The Same Face

You’ve seen a family where each member looks exactly the same (except for varying heights), but it seems like people from “the land of ice and snow” might have genes incapable of being watered down.

I don’t know what country this family originally hails from, but it’s clearly from some place where people are “severely good-looking” and good at Olympic figure skating… because they have the cheekbones and bangs to prove both of my assumptions.

I’ve taken high school biology so I can understand how children can look exactly like their parents, but how is it that the mom and the dad look like each other?

The Angry Family

I don’t know where The Angry Family is headed, but everyone in the terminal can tell that the gates of hell was on their trip itinerary.  This group of people is so testy that explosions of anger seem to erupt over the most minor and accidental transgressions:

Mom is yelling at the courtesy clerk, Dad is yelling at the daughter for wanting a Starbucks, The daughter is yelling at the son for rolling over her foot with his heelies, and the son is crying because he left his Spongebob backpack in the taxi.

The noise generated by the family strife is powerful enough that the engineers at Bose headphones are working around the clock to develop a noise canceling setting called “Family Argumentation”.

The Passed Out Family

The Passed Out Family can be found at a terminal gate that they are trusting they’ll eventually depart from.   It is apparent from the condition of their wreckage (fast food wrappers and bags) that they have gorged themselves on a preflight meal, only to have succumbed to the exhaustion that accompanies crossing time zones in continental increments.

In a desperate attempt to find comfort and prevent theft, the passed out family is often observed lying atop their sizeable carry-on bags.  As a fellow visitor to the International terminal it’s important to know that if these people are at your gate when you arrive, and the departure gate changes, it’s your responsibility to wake only the mother and let her know that the whole family is going to need to move.

Editors note: It is entirely possible that the passed out family is eventually what happens to the angry family after visiting the Wendy’s kiosk.

Improvised Luggage Guy

If there’s anything more annoying than the man who refuses to check any baggage on an international flight, it’s the person who is attempting to carry-on produce boxes or garbage bags filled with his personal belongings.

It’s not enough that this person has “MacGuyver-ed” their own luggage out of scavenged household items and exorbitant amounts of tape, but once inside the terminal they are forced to carry it from shop to shop like an armful of firewood.  There’s nothing more interesting than watching ILG enjoy a good massage in the Sharper Image demo chair while holding his hefty bag filled with socks.

Improvised Meal Guy

Sometimes this creature is desperate and sometimes this creature is cheap, but either way this person has hoarded boxes of raisins, tin foil topped cups of juice, packets of mayonnaise, airline peanuts, and an apple from the breakfast buffet at the airport hotel and then managed to combine them into a sordid supper… sometimes eaten off of a newspaper!

Taking A Bath In The Sink Guy

I don’t know if this happens in the women’s restroom as well, but quite often you turn the corner into the men’s room only to be confronted by a man washing his armpits in only his underwear and dress socks.  Sometimes this man will have shaving cream on his face and a toothbrush in his mouth, but one thing is for certain – he doesn’t leave smelling any better, the bathroom just smells worse. If you ever run across “TABITSG, it’s best to just find another restroom.  Trust me on this one.

As I return from the international terminal I take solace in the fact that everyone in it is eventually returning to the place where they belong, and where their behavior makes sense…

…and they are probably writing their own blog post about “the American man who stares at us while hogging all the power outlets.”

Start the ball rolling in the comment section below – have you encountered one of these 8 people? Maybe you just discovered you are one!


  • Don't forget the "Flirt with the Attendant at the Gate Desk" guy. He stands there for hours or leaves and returns multiple times to ask unessary questions and usually props himself up on one elbow while gingerly leaning against the desk with his legs crossed at the ankles. Oh and one of my favorites (can be male or female) the "camping out at the front of a non-existant line HOURS before the plane leaves" person. They are DETERMINED to be the first "non-privledged" (frequent fliers, business, etc) flier on the plane. They usually have a book or laptop and try as hard as they can not to stand out even though EVERYONE knows why they are there! (Sometimes I see them scowel when they announce families with small children may board first and we walk by after enjoying sitting in chairs during the wait) - Reply

    • Bahahahhah! That's funny Laura. I (Jay) have never seen the the guy who camps out in front of a non-existant line! That's so funny. I always wonder why everyone is in such a rush to board the plane. - Reply

  • heh heh, we're the improvised meal family… - Reply

    • Love that family! We are that family who packs a few meals onto the plane, spreads out and the aroma of our food permeates throughout the cabin. A small dog could live for a week off the stuff the kids drop on the floor. - Reply