What My Mother Taught Me About Driving People to the Airport

by Deborah Copaken
Originally Published: 

I know these precise travel times not because I was a well-traveled kid—I’m one of four daughters; the cost of flying all of us anywhere was prohibitive—but because I did a lot of traveling back and forth to the airport. Why? My mother was the person all of her friends knew they could always count on to drive them there.

Seriously, in certain circles, she’s famous for this.

No, these friends of hers are not poor. This wasn’t a charity thing. Most of them can afford taxis and the cost of storing their vehicles in a garage at the airport while they’re away. But cost never really factored into Mom’s largesse. She simply doesn’t believe anyone should have to take a taxi to or from an airport. Period. End of story. Don’t ask why, just because.

She grew up in the era of glamorous flight, when people wore wool suits and crisp skirts to fly, not grubby sweatpants with their alma mater or sexual innuendo emblazoned in giant letters across the butt. For her the idea that she should be sitting at home when a close friend had to take a plane was not acceptable; even worse would be for a person she knew and loved to disembark with no friendly face to greet them.

The horror! Seriously, the horror.

Living in New York City, I’ve never owned a car, and working full-time while single parenting means I don’t have the same luxuries of stolen hours on the road with a friend, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t imbibe the key lessons of all that airport shuttling. I’m the one who will stay late after the party to help you do the dishes. I will show up to brunch with a bunch of mangos and bananas for a fruit salad, which I will then peel and slice in your kitchen even if you don’t have a vegetable peeler, but seriously, why don’t you have one? Just get one already. (Here, this one gets the best reviews on Amazon, and it’s not too expensive.) I’ll write your kid a recommendation to her dream school. I’ll bring clean underwear to your hospital bedside. I’ve already been asked to do this twice this year, and I’m betting it’ll happen again soon enough. There should really be an app for clean underwear delivery to hospitals, or maybe Victoria’s Secret and/or Hanes could set up shop in hospital lobbies. They’d make a mint.

The point I’m trying to make is this: It doesn’t have to be a ride to an airport. Anytime we can be of service to another, within reason, we should, not only because it helps these others but because it enriches our own souls. Mom understood this on a cellular level: By picking up a friend at the airport, you are giving yourself an even bigger gift—a belief not only in love and the powers of interconnectedness, but also in the possibility that, should you one day disembark after a long and arduous journey, someone will be standing there at the other end with a smile.

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