søndag, juli 30, 2006

Gold Star

Continental Airlines avoided becoming inContinental to me by actually delivering my bag from Palm Beach International to Minneapolis-Saint Paul. This is no small feat.

Continental! You get a gold star!!

While Delta, Northwest, and various regional carriers have made it their mission this year to lose my luggage on domestic return flights, Continental, on my first venture with them and with a connection in Houston to boot, delivered me and my luggage at THE SAME TIME. Very refreshing.

Now, I don't know why flying is becoming a more nervous experience for me. I suppose the robust part of my brain that's dedicated to calculating the imminence of heartache, body scarring, disease, physical pain, or outright death has determined that my odds of crashing in a plane are really getting up there after so many flights. I no longer look out windows on take-off or touch-down. I close my eyes, fold my hands together. I concentrate on holding the plane together. For all I know, I am the one holding the plane together.

Still, I remain fascinated by people-watching in airports, by the great range of languages, clothing, booties and facial hair you find in airports. By all the things people say to one another to squeeze in some conversation when most of are, in trasit, quite alone.

In Houston, and at an airport (Bush) I was a little sour about visiting, I was to have a 30-minute connection window. I was sure I would miss my plane. But the flight from Palm Beach landed 25-minutes early. Countering that, we sat on the tarmac for 22 minutes waiting for someone to lower the gate to the plane. Then, I found my next gate was just two over from where I arrived. Woo hoo! Wait. That flight has been delayed a little over an hour.

There was a bar and snack shop next to my gate, so I popped in and ordered a beer. I was carded. No big deal, but, of course, a fat lot of young people consider this a serious insult, so people like me, who look in comparison to their actual age (e.g., 32) horrifyingly you-must-be-ill-or-have-sold-your-soul young, well, a reaction is expected. The old bartender was really frowny about the experience, as if it disappointed her then that I was certainly of age and would have to be provided with the pint I'd ordered. The woman next to the register began to tell me about how her son was always carded.

"It does no harm," I said.

"He lives in Sacremento now," she said. She added, "Sacremento."

She looked tired. I couldn't tell how long she'd been traveling or sitting at the bar.

"Does he like it there?" I asked.

He did.

After this brief exchange, I took an open stool on the other side of the L-shaped bar. I was one seat from the end. I took out my notebook and wrote, pausing here and there to take in the environment. Houston's B concourse is set up with bubble ends like many airports, a large circular room with numerous gates plugged into it. I took in the snoring forms, the guts, the frigthened-looking teens who traveled with teddy bears or teddy bear pillows. A group of boy scouts in full uniform were taking turns laughing and shoving / punching one another in the shoulders.

I took in the wilted shoulders and cuticle picking and idle chatter. The panicky walks. The mussy hair. The inexplicable wearing of shades indoors.

If I could have a job just wandering airports, I'd take it, I think. People in transit fascinate me. Everyone has a certain strangeness to them, a quality that emerges in isolation and maybe is unusual for them in groups (such as sunglasses indoors) but certainly signs them when alone in public. That stands for them...and not just to me but to them.

When I was finishing my pint, a crew of four women ranging in age it seemed from about 22 to 45, showed up in white, ribbed tank tops and red short-shorts with two white racing strapes on one hip. I moved over a seat so they had four consecutive seats to take along the bar. They thanked me. Each of them seemed to sigh and reflexively push a wisp of platinum blonde hair away from their eyes.

Each of them had skin bronzed beyond bronze. Their skin wore a depth of tan the likes of which I recalled seeing only on a rather leathery neighbor across the street growing up. I'd delivered papers to her and her husband (who could be seen daily walking their three boxers). It had always freaked me out to wait in their foyer surrounded by lush plants and standing atop something of a jungly carpet as she picked through a change purse. I couldn't stop staring at her tan.

So these four women next to me were of this ilk. I couldn't fathom how skin could take color that deep unless the skin was naturally that color. With the platinum blonde dyes, the women looked like some race that might appear on an episode of Star Trek or Xena. They just weren't of this world.

The one closest to me, who seemed to be the oldest one, thanked me again for moving down. "God," she added. There was a pause in which the ghosts of everywhere they'd stopped must have risen up. She said, "We sell tanning products. Please don't ask me to make another pitch," one hand waving a little bit as if drawing each accented syllable in the air.

"Oh, no worries," I told her, looking up from my notebook. "I'm really not the target audience."

"You a writer?" she asked.

"I am," I said.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com