Wednesday, August 11, 2010

People Watching....& Listening

Because Tommy works for an airline, we have been able to travel frequently. What a blessing! However, we always fly standby, which can make for some interesting trips and LOTS of time in airports. Still a blessing and the fodder for LOTS of funny family stories.

Like the time we were in an airport elevator and Matt (who was about 8 at the time) gave a stranger complete directions on how and where to check his luggage, get his boarding pass, and make it through security easily. Or listening to Matt and Lindsay recite from memory the recorded message about which side of the moving sidewalk to stand on. Or the time we held our annual family "Christmas Eve dinner and open one package" tradition at the SLC airport, because Tommy had a layover there between flights. (This was before 9/11 when you could go through security without a boarding pass.) Or the time the kids and I got stuck in Dallas and had to spend the night. We got up early the next morning just to allow time to ride the airport train the entire circuit, because they wanted to see where it went.

But perhaps one of the nicest blessings of spending time in an airport is people watching--and listening. God definitely made all kinds! Here are a few examples:

Attitude - Once I saw a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) storm to the front of a line at the gate and demand to be helped because he was a first-class passenger. The flight was delayed due to thunderstorms, and there were about half a dozen people ahead of him worried about possibly missing connections. The gate agent patiently assured him she'd get to him when she finished with those who were already in line. He was NOT a happy camper and went to the back of the line muttering a few words I dare not print!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I overhead a woman talking to her mother about missing her flight. She and her husband got to the airport and had dinner before going to their gate. Unfortunately, they arrived at the gate five minutes before takeoff; and the jetway door was already closed. This is another example of a newbie. (see below) Evidently her mom asked why they didn't get to the gate sooner. She told her mom, "because we're just hillbillies, Mom." And they had a good laugh over it. What a difference between the two.

Children - always a joy to watch! And to watch adults interact with them. I love to watch toddlers pull their own suitcase or push their own strollers. And what wisdom of airport directors to install play areas, although I've seen children play just as happily without them. When Matt was little, I carried a small tape measure with me, which kept him entertained for hours measuring the height of the chairs from the floor, the size of his suitcase, etc. Unfortunatley, I've also encountered a few of Bill Cosby's "Jeffry's." I feel sorry for the harried parents of tired and cranky children, and the children who cry during takeoff and landing because their ears hurt.

Dress - It's amazing to see how differently people dress to fly. I've seen everything from pajamas to suits. Flip flops to stiletto heels. Perfectly made up to just rolled out of bed. Elegant and classy to downright questionable for public viewing.

Luggage - There is a reason the airports have those devices to measure your suitcase to see if it will fit in the overhead compartment. But, people tend to think, "I can make this fit." Fishing poles, musical instruments, wedding dresses, stuffed Shamus--just a few of the things I've seen carried on--some successfully fitting and others not. And bless the flight attendants who patiently rearrange the bins and assist with gate checking the things that won't fit. During one flight, I actually saw a briefcase fall out of an overhead compartment and hit a man in the head cutting him pretty badly.

Newbies - These are people who don't fly often or are flying for the first time. You see a lot of them in the summer and around the holidays. Like the young man trying to get through security who was pulling toiletries out of his backpack one at a time and asking if each was small enough. No, a full-sized tube of toothpaste isn't. Meanwhile the line behind him is getting longer and longer and longer.

First timers also tend to speak loudly in excitement. A woman behind me recently was on her cell phone when I was seated. I easily heard every word of the conversation. She saw the lighted sign that said, "please turn off all electronic devices" and didn't know she could continue to talk until the aircraft door is closed. She hurriedly hung up. A few minutes later her seatmate asked her to take a picture. The woman said she couldn't because she had to turn off all her electronic devices--not realizing that only meant transmitting devices. :) Her seatmate assured her a camera was OK, and soon they were happily snapping photos. A few hours later, she was exclaiming, "look at the lake, look at the lake," as we were approaching SLC. (Little did she know it was not the Great Salt Lake but Utah lake she was seeing--but both are beautiful enough for that excitement.)

Seasoned - These are the people who have flying down to an art and fly even more often than airline employees' families. The flight from Anchorage to Salt Lake is an overnight flight. It leaves there at 2 am and arrives here at 7:30. Lights are dimmed on takeoff, and most people immediately go to sleep. I recently watched in awe as a woman settled in for the night. First, she took her shoes off and changed into slippers she pulled from her carry on (which held as much as Mary Poppins' satchel). She took out her MP3 player and Bose noise-cancelling headphones (there was a little bit of coveting from me over those) and turned them on. Next came a full-sized pillow, a snuggie, and an eye mask. Finally, she took some sort of pill (I assume a sleep aide), curled up in the seat, pulled the eye mask in place, leaned against the window, and slept like a baby the entire flight. I know this because I seldom sleep on planes and watched her restful night rather than enjoying one of my own.

Being a reader, I never travel without at least two books. But, who needs them when people are so much more interesting--at least until the flight is well underway.