It was three o’clock in the morning when I took the elevator. Its bottled classical music accompanied me on my twelve-floor journey down to the hotel lobby where another soundtrack played—Christmas carols. I approached the receptionist, requested a taxicab, and waited for at least five more songs that prompted me to think of nothing else but getting out of there. At 3:20, I got in the cab to the airport. The driver played his music very loudly, and I, not wanting to offend him, waited a while before asking him to turn it down. After all, I am a solitary woman, riding in a taxi, in the middle of the night, and in the middle of nowhere. Ten minutes after I requested he turn down the reggaeton, the driver did as I asked. But then, he began humming the songs. Though I’d not been previously aware of it, he’d probably been doing this all along. Forty minutes later, we arrived at the airport, and I was incapable of getting out of my head the reggaeton’s infamous phrases.
I went to check my bag, and on the other side of the counter there was a gigantic inflatable reindeer facing a Santa Claus shouting, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” More Christmas carols blared from the speakers, but they now followed a Latin beat. I went through security and in that half-functioning airport, all signs of the season seemed sad and faded: Christmas music and ornaments do not mean much to those who board planes at four o’clock in the morning, to those omnipresent and somber men in blue suits with whom I often cross paths.
I ordered a cup of coffee and the waiter, offering a beautiful smile, took out the calendar and stuttered, “There are only eighteen days until Christmas.” And then I realized I was turning into one of those omnipresent, somber figures…I smiled and reminded myself that it is music that tints the gray realities of our lives.