The Airport Drop Off Hug (A discourse on the oddities of human behavior)

Like most oddities of human behavior, I believe there has been many a Seinfeld episode about the airport.  But they focused on the driver’s responsibility to be there on time to pick the traveler up, or being late and running to the plane and the Duty-Free Shop.  I’m thinking about the actual moment of drop off once you get the traveler to the airport.  As the driver, you become the last known friendly face that this person will see before embarking upon an unknown journey.  And there’s always that thought on both of your minds that there is a million to 1 chance that the plane could go down.  Being the last known friendly face that they see on this earth before meeting a very untimely horrific end to their story comes with responsibility.  It is your duty, as part of the unspoken agreement in accepting the task of the airport drop off, to give that person a going away hug before they embark into the great unknown.  Regardless of who this person is to you.  Am I not correct about this?  I feel a sense of obligation whenever I drop anyone at the airport to give him or her a hug.  With family and friends, that is a no-brainer.  It’s mostly with work associates that things get interesting.  Depending on the nature of your work relationship, this moment of “The Hug” can either be completely normal, slightly weird, or downright totally uncomfortable but you suck it up anyway and give them a squeeze.  And it’s kind of funny because it’s one of those things that you don’t premeditate.  It’s not like someone asks you for a ride to the airport and you instantly think, hmmm, will the hug be weird?  Yep!  Oh, I’m sorry I’m busy that day.  It never crosses your mind until you get to the airport curb and you hop out of the car and help them with their bags in the trunk and then there you are… The moment of truth.

I had some time to think about this today because I just dropped one of the owners of my company off at the airport after work.  It was all good.  Totally normal.  I think I hug all of the office non-regulars, either when they come or go, each time I see them.  But the longer commute home gave me extra time in the car for random thoughts, and really it is quite a funny moment for two people that don’t know each other all that well.  I wonder what it’s like for guy work associates?  Do they shake hands?  Pat each other on the back?  Give the really awkward guy-on-guy hug?  Am I the only person that feels this obligation?

Fortunately for me now, I could drop off anyone in my current company and the hug would be pretty normal.  The good news is that I’m not a Taxi Cab Driver… how funny would that be if you took a taxi to the airport and the driver gave you a hug?!!  At a previous job I used to be the go-to airport driver because I worked in Orange County and lived in Los Angeles.  So my typical evening commute involved me passing John Wayne, Long Beach and LAX airports.  Being the company airport driver led to some awkward airport-drop-off-hugs.  There was the time I took our investor Jimmy Hormel to the airport… Hi, you’re a hot mega-billionaire and I am a lowly customer service rep.. We’ve never met before but here’s the airport and here’s your hug!  And there was the time I dropped off Freeman, our Chinese production guy from the overseas factory. The reports back from that ride were that I was a very fast driver and he must have read into the hug because I heard he had a crush on me after that.   And of course, I’ll never forget the time I almost killed the Australian Production Team when they told me to drive the company Mercedes to take everyone to the airport.  My car is a manual and the Mercedes was an automatic.  Everything was fine, but after driving in the carpool lane on cruise control for an hour I forgot that the car wasn’t a manual.  So when I tried to get us off cruise control, switch lanes and down shift at the same time, out of habit I went for the clutch and I instead slammed on the brakes with my left foot.  And I am telling you, I went after that brake pedal hard!  I’m talking hard, like you would a clutch, and pressed it all the way to the floor… Yep.  So we went from doing 75 to 40 in like 2 seconds. Everyone was at the mercy of their seatbelts.  People in the car were screaming… every single one of us was confused (me most of all)… the car behind us almost hit us.  It was pretty bad.  Funny now though!  That hug was more of a thank-God-we-made-it-here-alive hug.

But now that I’ve had time to really analyze it.  I feel like the Airport-Drop-Off-Hug is an important hug.  That potentially could be the last bit of human contact that person gets before dropping from the sky in a fiery ball of doom. I’m giving big ass bear hugs at the airport from here on out.  Chinese businessman or not.  No more hugs where your shoulders are touching and your hips are 8 feet apart. Or the one-armed-half-hearted-hug. Or the pat-on-the-back-not-really-a-squeeze-hug.  Bear Hugs.  Count on it!

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