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Why Altoids at the Airport Were the Best Thing That Happened To Me

Everyone has that moment, especially when you’re travelling solo. You awkwardly eavesdrop on the people sitting next to you, half-opening your mouth to say something and then burying your nose into your phone, book or laptop. I consider myself an extrovert, but on this journey of self-discovery I have realized that I have this inner shy girl that needs a push to break the ice. And that, very weirdly, for me was Altoids. I’m telling you: if you want to make friends at the airport, on the plane, wherever… bring mints or gum with you. Offer them to your soon-to-be friends and voila! Ice broken. Conversation flows.

This really helped me when I had an unexpected THREE-HOUR layover in Chicago on my way to Dublin. Much to everyone’s dismay, my lovely one-hour layover turned into three when the plane decided to have some pretty inconvenient maintenance issues. Sitting in the airport waiting area, I twiddled my thumbs while over-hearing an adorable couple from Ireland talk to a girl who was about to be an exchange student in Cork. The girl chattered away as I stared at the book in her hands. It was one of my favorite books. I was dying to ask her how she liked it, but didn’t want to intrude on their conversation. I dove my nose back into my book (a book in the same series she was reading) and tried to suppress the innate human need to connect.

Naturally, my mouth began to feel dry and gross after travelling all day. I pulled the Altoids out of my bag and popped one in my mouth as an idea popped into my head. I leaned over to the guy sitting across from me and proffered the magic-friend-making-mints. His eyes lit up and accepted. Then I got a little crazy, leaned over and offered the mints to the adorable couple, the exchange student and a darling British woman. Having all accepted, we began to chat amicably about the nuisance of waiting for the airplane to be fixed. (Tip: Having a common enemy brings people together…that enemy was the unaccommodating airline. Grrr.) We began to all chat as a group, talking about Ireland, hilarious Irishisms, and where we were from, etc. The guy that I had first offered a mint to found out that he was actually going to the same town as the Irish couple and they arranged a ride together! The British woman gave me hilarious lessons as an outsider in Ireland, explaining the funny “rules are meant to be broken” mentality of the Irish. Of course, the exchange student and I fan-girled over the book as the rest of the group nodded and smiled politely.

Needless to say, I made some memorable connections in the airport, all because of my Altoids. Yes, thank you Altoids. No. They are not paying me to write this (but I wish they were). So get out there world, share your mints, your stories and make those connections that we need to survive as humans.



Profile photo of Brigid Leahy

I'm a Los Angeles girl who traded California sunshine for an Irish adventure. Currently I'm pursuing my Master's Degree at Trinity College in Dublin, all the while immersing myself in the expat life. I love petting every dog I meet on the street, a good pint of Guinness and hunting for sea glass.

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