The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

There’s No Crying in the Vienna Airport

I’m crying in the airport. Just returning from a trip, feeling a bit overwhelmed with heartbreak and worry, it is nice to be back in familiar Vienna. I know how to get to  the S-Bahn station for a train to the city. At the ticket machine, tears stream down my face. It’s out of character for me to weep openly in public, but it’s also very hard to keep your belongings upright, dig for Euro change, and mop up tears at the same time–so I just let ‘em roll.

A young Spanish guy interrupts me. He asks in scraps of English how to get a ticket for the city center, how to use the machine if he can’t speak German. Though it’s normal for people to stop me, talk to me, I thought that today tears will deter conversation and allow me to wallow in peace. I try to wipe away my tears with the back of my hand as I show him how he can use the machine in English, and when he doesn’t take over, I help him through the prompts. He feeds money in and I start to tug my suitcase away when a woman halts me.

She wants to go to Slovenia. Slovenia is distinctly not in the Vienna city center. I have no clue how to get her to Slovenia with the local trains, surely she needs a regional train, surely she needs someone with more information. She insists. I suggest asking up at the airport information counter. She persists. I have to help, she keeps saying that I have to help.

Finally, another woman arrives and knows how she can get there. The Spaniard–still hanging around–lets me lead him to the proper platform for our mutual train. We’ve just missed the last one, “What a pity.” He says with the glee of being able to say something pithy in a foreign tongue. We wait together, chatting on the topics we can manage. He wants to ask me about U.S. politics and we quickly learn this is out of the reach of our common vocabulary. So we stick to his girlfriend, his family, and the beautiful things we’ve seen in our travels.

I tell him a few stops before our destination, “You know, I was pretty sad when you stopped me.”

He laughs, and I believe he puts it this way: “Yes, you were crying. But so! I needed that you helped.”

–Vienna, Austria.

ayn rand, vienna

Vienna. First District.

14 comments on “There’s No Crying in the Vienna Airport

  1. M-R
    April 9, 2014

    You don’t tell us what had caused the tears, so I shall not ask. But it’s amazing how people just … expect, eh, Paige ? The woman because she saw you helping the Spaniard; and the Spaniard because he’s a man, and Spanish. And you are … you.

    • True, I was elusive on the source of the tears. Perhaps it’s a tale for another story, though few of my tales are tear-jerkers. 🙂 I spent a few weeks trying to decide how to tell this story without the crying in it, but it’s precisely why their requests were so remarkable to me. They wouldn’t let me wallow.
      Still waiting on your book to arrive, M.R. It should be here this weekend.

      • M-R
        April 9, 2014

        Rotsa ruck …

  2. Darlene
    April 9, 2014

    Perhaps they were sent to take your mind of your sorrows.

  3. billgncs
    April 9, 2014

    maybe your tears made you approachable.

    do you travel for business ?

    • Perhaps! I probably would ditch the weeper, but maybe it did make them bold.

      No, most of my travel is just where the wind takes me. I’m fortunate to work online and enjoy Ramen noodles. 🙂


      • billgncs
        April 9, 2014

        my wife and I are planning a three month trip to New Zealand, Australia, and maybe a stop in Fiji next year.

        any advice for people taking their first long trip in many years ?

  4. I’m sorry you were crying! That makes me sad.

    • No need to worry. It’s like that R.E.M. song, right? Everybody cries sometimes? 🙂 An airport is a reasonably accepted place to do it, though usually not at the Arrivals terminal…


  5. Rosie Amber
    April 10, 2014

    Did you have a sign over your head which said “Ask me for help?”, amazing how many people wanted your help.

    • Rosie Amber, it may be so. I seem to draw that. It could be worse. People could flee in horror! And usually strangers who come up to me or who I approach make for the best stories. 🙂

  6. heavenhappens
    April 10, 2014

    Angels come in many guises I find x
    I walked my dog the other night and I was crying with sadness and frustration at my very unkind brother. I saw an old lady 84 years old and disabled struggling to put out her dustbin. Of course I stopped to help and we ended up chatting for an hour! I was supposed to be helping her BUT She certainly ended up as my angel.
    Life is strange x
    I do hope you are not suffering still x

    • I agree! It would be much harder for these folks to have distracted me if I were weeping at home. 🙂 I’m sorry about your brother, and grateful that you found someone to help. I think this hearkens to the Pope Francis quotation I posted earlier about how everyone can offer someone something.
      I’m doing well, thank you. 🙂

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