A few years ago, I was on a connecting flight from Little Rock to Albany, on one of those teensy planes for people flying from one weird place to another. The woman who had the aisle seat next to me looked either tired or distraught about something that wasn’t any of my business, but she turned to me anyway and explained that she was on this plane because her sister had just died. She was heading to her funeral.
I said something along the lines of:
“Oh my God.”
“I’m so sorry.”
She apologized in advance for all the crying she was about to do, which she did throughout the entire flight.
Now here I am, about 5 years later, crying on a flight to Boston…after spending the majority of my waiting time crying in the LAX courtyard “pet area.” Thankfully, my row buddies are all asleep and the only words we exchanged were about whether or not they had called our row numbers yet earlier in the airport. The circumstances behind my move back were terrible. I had gotten ridiculously chronically ill all thanks to three pills of a super dangerous antibiotic. Because of this illness, I was no longer able to work as a heavy-lifting, long-hour-working, fluoride-water-drinking television Production Assistant. My roommates (probably descendants of Voldemort) had decided to kick me out with 30 days notice (legal under a monthly sublease) for no reason, but probably because I was sick. So I was sick, without a job, and without a home. I had an incredible partner and a few amazing friends, but that community couldn’t sustain me living there for much longer without income or some sort of lease.
I left. I had to, at least temporarily. No, my relative did not die, but a part of me did and that was really scary. I didn’t know what was coming next. I missed my boyfriend already. It was incredibly painful.
We travel for many reasons. For some, it’s to start a new life chapter and for others, to end one. We travel for business, pleasure, family, school, trauma, disaster, and simple exploration. The seats of public transportation are compact, meant to create the greatest revenue for the company, whether it be on a bus, train, or plane. Those seats forces its passengers into each other’s lives and personal space. Every single person has a story and seeing a stranger crying, especially when you’re so close to them your shoulders are touching, really brings things into perspective. You’re not alone.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve cried on public transportation. Another time was in the summer of 2013 when I had to weave through the tourists of Times Square to catch the uptown 1 train home, crying all the way. I’m in a few tourist pics with tear-stained cheeks, probably. My boyfriend of about a year had just broken up with me completely out of the blue and although I knew in my heart that I would be okay, he was the only person I really knew in the city that summer – besides his parents and friends, of course. I ended up making a few friends through OkCupid (yup, that website saved me that year) with people I still talk to today. At the time though, I let the tears flow freely in the subway station, accompanied by a busking violinist.
Plenty of times I’ve seen people cry on public transportation and I always try to say something to make them feel better, so that they understand they’re not alone. Sometimes, it will be as simple as “I hope you feel better” and other times, I’ll give out a random compliment. Once, I told a beautiful tall black girl on the subway that she had pretty eyes (even though they were filled to the brim with tears). Later, I felt embarrassed as to how odd that was to say, but she did smile back. I made an impact nonetheless.
There’s a strange sense of camaraderie with fellow crying travelers. Maybe its just me, but I feel like it’s an invisible kind of trust. For how many times I’ve had to deal with some bullshit in a random European airport, Port Authority, or the flaming pit of swirling hell that is Penn Station, I am unable to feel bad about crying in some transportation hub anymore. Fuck it, right? Especially since these places are where everyone comes for so many different reasons. We’re all human and the cusp of our miserable existence may be the only thing we have in common: our emotions.
Who knows why someone is crying in public, but if you’re bound to let some tears loose in public, it must be for a solid reason. Us travelers are here for you. We get it. It’s hard being a human and transporting yourself to a different place where everything is different. There are so many types of emotions that come out of traveling that there’s nothing we can really judge you for. We should all give each other and ourselves more of a break (I’m looking at you, Y chromosome friends). Let the tears flow. Allow yourself to be vulnerable
Photo Credit: “The Bottom of Everything” Bright Eyes music video