David Erik

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The ghost of Östersund Airport

Some airplane technician with an yellow vest is about to order something. Might as well take this opportunity to grab another freshly pressed orange juice. The staff is very friendly, but not very present. When I first arrived, I surprised both the woman working with luggage, the woman working in security and the girl in this cafeteria.

I guess it is to be expected. What am I even doing here? My plane leaves in about eight hours. Yes, EIGHT hours. I arrived to Östersund Airport before noon, and my plane takes off at 20:15. Not knowing exactly the end time for this climbing trip, I leaned towards booking the later flight just in case. It turns out I overshot by quite some time.

I guess I could have used this time to take a long walk outside. And just enjoy the never ending sun. Or the view - snow clad mountain tops towering behind green trees and mirror looking lakes. It is magnificent, really. But after few days, you get somewhat used to it.

And there’s something about airports. Especially the really small ones, far off, with only a few flights per day. The atmosphere puts me in some weird state between nostalgia and an urge to change everything in my life. Wonder why. It is not like I’ve spent much time at airports, so the nostalgia makes no sense. Maybe airport waiting hours makes me actually think, including about old days, while I don’t spend much time just sitting around thinking, when in normal day-to-day-mode.

The girl working in the cafeteria goes around the counter, looks left and right, and starts filling a glass with something I think is Pepsi. Looks around quickly again and runs in behind the scenes. Didn’t pay any notice to me sitting in my corner. The Corner with The Power Outlet. Maybe my green fleece blends in too well among the pillows and nicely decorated walls.

After a extended weekend with climbing (and a little detour with kayaking, including a not-so-planned bath), my body is naturally tired. But at the same time, I feel in much better shape than after a normal work week. And those days I just sit down and type things. Hard to tell if one kind of exhaustion is better than the other in the long run. Maybe the social energy refill, that you get by spending all your hours in the company of people with similar interests, compensates for some of the negative effects of physical exhaustion.

I make some phone calls. Even phone calls change when you have somewhat unlimited time for them. Normally, there’s an agenda of some sort. And natural time limits since you have to ”do things” later. This time, not so much.

It is actually some people here now. Almost like this isn’t a ghost airport, after all. A couple with a kid, that constantly bangs a plastic cup against the table. An old man in an armchair. A girl that seems to travel alone and currently eats food she brought with her. Such a rule breaker. Or maybe she is a student, that really can’t afford buying her lunch from the classically-overpriced airport cafeteria.

There is more to almost everything, when you look a little longer. And I have time. Take the man that sits in the armchair over there. Suited up, in his fifties. Holding an iPad somewhat uncomfortably, you could assume he was trying to read some converted Excel file regarding Q2 budget stuff. But I walked past him on my way back to my corner, and he was watching South Park.

Or the couple that sits a bit to the left of me. In their forties, maybe. The woman is reading, the man mostly just sitting next to her. And occasionally tries to talk. Maybe he wanted to ask a question, or point out something peculiar about the stuffed reindeers, standing in the big windows that shows the empty landing strip. But after half a word, she shushes him with a clicky sound that I can only assume means something like ”reading, not now”. Or maybe ”remember your wow of silence”. Depends on how high odds you want with your guess.

Another technician. Ice cream seems to be their weapon of choice today. That, together with some half-joke about ”working in this niiice-weather”.

All my fellow travelers have now left this cozy cafeteria, along with their untold stories. Only non-staff person is me in my corner. The ghost of Östersund Airport. Patiently waiting, together with the unexpectedly good radio music (right now old Coldplay) and now and then someone from the staff passing by.

Another cafeteria girl does the exact same thing that her colleague did. Run-out, look-around, fetch-some-Pepsi. Seems to be a thing.

I’m about to leave a bubble soon. A bubble that I entered a few days ago, when I mostly put my phone away, and stopped checking Hackernews Top Posts and social media feeds. Outside this bubble, I can already see everything I’ve ignored. Planning needs to happen for upcoming events, that now are almost a week closer than when I closed the bubble door. I need to book some stuff. Could do it right now. But something in me wants to keep the bubble a little bit longer. The bubble me is less sarcastic. Bubble me meets new people. Bubble me talks with strangers. Bubble me almost wanted to go talk with the man with the iPad.

Now the cafeteria personel are eating ice cream. And a few minutes earlier, a technician appeared behind the counter and handpicked a few things to bring with him. Wonder if they pay for all this stuff. Maybe it is some kind of perk when you work here, to freely pick from the selection? Don’t know.

A wild traveler appears! (I think this is a Pokemon reference? I never played.) An old man now pays for two glasses of wine, in cash. And brings them over to an old woman, that best can be described as slow-moving. She is holding their boarding cards, like they were the Golden tickets. Maybe they are. My flight is the upcoming one (in a few hours) so I can safely assume they are heading for Stockholm (I mean, who would show up at the airport much earlier than this before their flight, am I right?) But I can’t know if they are indeed heading for a magical chocolate factory. Or if they also are heading back to their Routine.

Because that is what I am doing. The bubble is thin, and I’m soon back discussing interest rates and weather.

Actually, this time it was me. I guess I should eat something. Time to takeoff: only two hours.

After all this time with the menu within reading distance, you could imagine me carefully picking out what to eat. But alas. Just with all other food orderings, I decide on the second I stand there and between I get a Hi and give a Hi back, I choose the soup. Forest mushrooms is the unique selling point, I think. That and complimentary toast. Add to that my fourth juice, and I am the best customer for the day, guaranteed.

I don’t eat soup often. Maybe it is bubble me ordering. Might as well. I like bubble me.

This airplane technician is apparently in a hurry. I’m not entirely sure how it makes sense to buy ice cream when you are in this kind of hurry. But hey. Everyone doesn’t have all time time in the world today.

Bubble me was right. This soup is delicious.