'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
AIRPORT CHARACTER STUDIES
I had to take a business trip to Atlanta recently. It’s been over two years since I’ve flown on a commercial jetliner, so I almost forgot how much fun it is to travel by air these days. Of course, I’m using the slang definition of the word “fun,” the definition that really means: I could not have been more uncomfortable if I had a heat rash over my entire body, was wearing burlap underwear three sizes too small, was tied to a chair in the middle of The Colicky Baby Institute’s ongoing research project on maximum decibel levels, and all the while being audited by the grumpiest accountant in the history of the I.R.S.
No wait. I could have been more uncomfortable. It could’ve been worse if the gentleman squeezing his way down the aisle of the plane during the boarding process—the fellow who most likely is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit blaming fast food restaurants for causing obesity—happened to be holding a ticket for the seat right next to me. Yep, it got worse.
His name was Dave, but his friends call him Tiny. Of course, his friends are using the slang definition of the word “tiny,” the definition that really means: not tiny.
Since there is a lot of publicity these days about the latest Star Wars movie, Tiny prompted me to think of that famous alien character, the one known for being a gigantic blob of sinister slime: George Lucas.
Actually, being on the airplane wasn’t so bad. At least we were moving toward Atlanta—except for those few hours when we were not moving toward Atlanta and were just sitting there on the tarmac, presumably waiting for the maintenance crew to borrow a set of jumper cables to get the engines started. Or maybe we were waiting for a break in the massive volume of air traffic above that bustling east coast aviation hub known as Bradley International Airport (motto: “A plane lands or takes off every 40 minutes…or so, depending on how quickly the maintenance crew can borrow a set of jumper cables”).
The most interesting aspect of air travel is sitting in the airport terminal, waiting for your flight to board. Of course, I’m using the slang definition of the word “interesting,” the definition that really means: fascinating.
Ah ha! You thought I was going to say something like “bored to tears.” That’s the way I used to think about waiting in the airport terminal. But during my recent trip to Atlanta, I discovered that an airport is the most fascinating human character study environment in the world.
Just think about it: every single person in the airport terminal does not want to be there—especially the airline employees, who wonder why they chose to work in an industry where you can be laid off at any moment and all the people you have to deal with during the day are stressed out and cranky.
Everyone in the airport terminal wants to be somewhere else—but they are required to go through the terminal in order to get to that somewhere else. Every possible human emotion is present there, and all of those emotions are heightened to the max.
People who are bored are REALLY bored. People who are frantically trying to catch a connecting flight are REALLY frantic. People who have a fear of flying are REALLY fearful. Even people who are joyful—for example, while embracing a son in uniform who just got home safely from a tour of duty in Iraq—are REALLY joyful.
It is truly fascinating to look at the expressions on people’s faces in the airport terminal. And I’m sure when other people looked at my facial expressions while I waited, and waited, and waited for my flight, they saw nothing but serenity. Of course, I’m using the slang definition of the word “serenity.”
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