There I was, sitting on a BART train, riding toward part of my eventual destination: The San Francisco Airport. I looked at the people around me, all traveling in the same direction: roughly south. By the time the doors opened up and we spilled out onto the platform outside the parking garage, the group that had started the journey with me across the bay had dwindled to a few compared to the packed car that made its way under the bay. Now as I made my way out into the cool night air, I watched as these now familiar faces that had made it to this final stop began to drift away. Some of them trudged along beside me. Some of them walked in silence. Others kept their idle chat going in excited bursts. We were travelling. There was adventure ahead.
This is when it started to occur to me that I really had no actual bond to these folks beyond a shared vector. I suspected that most of them would be meandering off in the direction of their chosen airline and terminal, while I continued my dogged pursuit of the next phase of my itinerary. I would go to Terminal 2. I would check in at the security checkpoint. I would slide my carry-on bag through the X-ray machine and wait my turn to walk through the metal detector. Once inside, I would call my younger brother and see if he had made his necessary connections to meet me at our gate. Then we would fly halfway across the country to return to our hometown. Together.
It had been a long time since the two of us had been in Colorado together. We had been taking turns visiting our mother and our older brother, tag-teaming on the effort to stay connected to the family we had left behind some twenty-five years ago. Now we were sharing this trip. I had someone to talk to, much to the annoyance of the poor woman who sat on the aisle as our plane took off. We have fifty-plus years of amusing anecdotes and a shared sense of humor that made us great company for the relatively short time in the air. That woman who sat next to us was a stranger, and will always be that, since we made no real effort to connect with her. We were too consumed with the brotherly connection we enjoyed.
The same could be said for the hundreds of other passengers who sat in front and behind us. Some of them may have been on that BART train earlier in the day, but they faded into the faceless crowd of not-my-family once we were off again to baggage claim. There we met up with my older brother and his daughter, and all that shared experience bubbled over once again as we carried out luggage out into the Mile High darkness and the car that would take us home. Once again in the bosom of my family, safe from the distractions of all those strangers with shared vectors.