Yesterday morning, I drove to the Albany airport to pick up our new backstage intern. It was my longest time away from Smirkus yet and while our new intern is a terrific person and made great company on the drive back, I couldn’t get back to the site fast enough.
The directions to the airport were very straightforward and I was able to pilot the massive pickup truck safely all the way to the short-term parking lot. Parking was a challenge and the massive whale of a vehicle barely squeezed between a Mini Cooper and a Honda Civic. No fenders or rear-view mirrors were harmed and I locked the doors and walked inside from the parking garage, proudly wearing my Smirkus t-shirt.
My confidence and glowing start to the day was promptly shattered when I got inside. At the arrivals board in yellow letters next to the flight number flashed one of the dirtiest words in every traveler’s vocabulary: DELAYED. My cell phone’s battery was almost dead and I had nothing to read. At the information desk, the front pages of the local papers were covered in headlines and pictures from the previous day’s matinee. The man behind the desk noticed me perusing them.
“Have you seen it?” He asked me.
“I work there.”
“What’s it like?”
“I ran away to join a circus for the summer. I love my job.”
I still had time so I settled into one of the benches and commenced one of my favorite pastimes of people watching. If you want to know what humanity looks like, I suggest you spend a morning sitting at the arrivals or departures gate in an airport. In Albany, these two portals are next to each other and you can see farewells and greetings of all kinds. It’s an emotional roller coaster that’s both heart warming and heart breaking. Kids ran to meet Grandma, men in suits and carrying portfolio cases shook hands and the limousine drivers stood off to the side with signs. I doodled and wrote my observations on a free map. In front of the security checkpoint, I watched a soldier and his family say farewells. Dad looked grim and snapped pictures with a disposable camera while Mom shuddered and looked scared. Everyone hugged and after a long kiss with his wife or girlfriend, the young man was gone. She sobbed as he walked away. Between the joyful reunions and the tearful goodbyes, my time waiting for a plane to land was emotionally draining.
It’s times like these that create the need for levity of some kind and I’m beginning to find that that’s where we come in. After sitting and watching the daily grind for the better part of the morning, I can understand where circuses like Smirkus belong in the grand scheme of things. So maybe that’s why people go to Smirkus and eagerly await our return the next year – because it’s so different and carefree when compared to the crush of the quotidian. In one of the newspapers I read, trouper Jesssica Roginsky told a visiting reporter: “The circus is a totally unique experience. It doesn’t feel like reality, but it is.”
How true, Jesssica. How true. It is reality, but simultaneously, it’s a very special one that serves a very special purpose and I’m beginning to feel it’s needed now more than ever.
Evan Johnson , Communications Intern