Airport Layovers: JFK

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I remember my flight home from Africa after hiking Kilimanjaro.  I had at last reached America and was at JFK in New York. My sleep for the last 36 hours had been non-existent.  I went from sleeping in hard seats at the Tanzanian airport with an open roof that allowed mosquitoes to attack me, to a short layover in Heathrow, until at last 36 hours later, I was in America again.  I felt certain I would be able to find somewhere to sleep for the next ten hours. I had spent way too much money overseas so the simple answer of getting a hotel wasn’t really an option. For some reason major airports in the west won’t let you go to the terminal unless it’s within a certain amount of time of your departure time.  

The first place I found to rest my weary head was a chapel/mosque/synagogue room.  I was certain I would be left alone in this all inclusive holy place and laid down in a corner while another traveler seeking sanctuary prayed.  Unfortunately, God’s sanctuary only lasts until 2200, and I was interrupted from my rest by an elderly gentleman gently nudging me and informing me I would have to leave.  

So here I was, alone at an airport at a time when everything was quickly closing.  I was exhausted and had nowhere to sleep. Mainly because I didn’t have an additional $200 to shell out on a hotel room near the airport in New York City.  I decided to wander JFK’s airport for a little bit while trying to decide what to do. Eventually after wandering the baggage claim for awhile I decided to follow the example of my fellow travelers and sleep curled up in a windowsill.  I staked my claim between some other unwashed road weary travelers. I had the added bonus of being near an outlet so I could charge some electronics. However, as the night wore on my fellow travelers all seemed to disappear and I became the lone traveler sleeping in a windowsill and feeling like Oliver Twist.  

I tried very hard to sleep as the night wore on and I would shiver periodically because of the freezing air conditioning despite the hot summer temperatures outside.  Eventually, in my half aware state I noticed an older jewish man, complete with yamaka and side curls looking at me. He pulled up a chair right in front of my half sleeping state and sat facing the world while I lay under my microfiber towel pressed against an airport window.  I like to think he was sitting there protectively over me while I slept, because he sat there alone and for a couple hours. When I eventually roused myself to make my way to my terminal he was gone. I don’t remember him leaving so clearly I must have gotten some sleep. Or he was a guardian angel.  Either or. Eventually the time for my flight home was within four hours and I was allowed to go to my terminal, where I stuffed myself with a $10 breakfast from McDonalds and finally headed home.

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