When you think about it, airports are the tangible representation of a sci-fi future. No, really, hear me out on this. Almost every sci-fi movie or book these days has a description of some kind of air transportation - rocket powered hover craft or zippy little personal jets - all convening in some sort of transport hub. Airports are not too different from these futuristic space ports - in fact it still boggles my mind a little that hundreds and hundreds of large metal canisters fly through the air, avoiding each other, with the greatest of ease. Mos Eisley, here we come.
The best thing about airports, though, is the people watching. There are some amazing cultural norms that are developing in airports.For example, when you are at an airport, even though you are surrounded by hundreds of people, it is imperative that you use your time to stay connected to some other person in your life who is not currently there with you. So, even though the nice lady sitting next to you in the waiting area will not move her large pile of things from the last availble seat, or even acknowledge you, she will include you in her conversation with whatshername about the gout in her left big toe and the ginger scrub she just bought that may or may not make her feet smell like ginger. She includes you, and the other 75 people sitting near her, in her conversation by talking three times louder than she needs to because, apparently, whatshername on the other end of her cell phone is currently walking through a construction zone. All this personal information from someone who won't even make eye contact with you.
If you feel like doing a social experiment, try purposefully making eye contact with people as you walk through the airport. It' s fun and weirds people out.
Another rule: if you fly on a day when your local professional football team is playing, you are required, regardless of your gender, to wear an over-large replica jersey proclaiming the name of some very large man that plays football that you are not even though you will soon be in a different place with people who don't care in a very short time. And you must not, under any circumstances, make eye contact with anyone else wearing the same jersey as you - no matter how much they may look like Lofa Tatupu.
There are a few statistical rules, too, that you've probably noticed. If you dare to even let the thought enter your mind that, "Gosh, I hope I'm not sitting next to that person", you will, as a rule, end up sitting next to that person. This rule kicks into overdrive for children, sick people, and the lady with the gout who smells overwhemingly of ginger. So practice being positive, you'll benefit in the long run.
Occasionally people do break the rules, though.
Most recently, my favorite example of this rule breaking happened in Dulles airport while waiting for the magic people transporter to come back from its latest trip to the main terminal. These huge, raised bus-like hum-vee things pull up to the flight terminal and people shuffle and prod their way into them through doors on the ends. It was in this pre-prodding phase that the man next to me leaned over and said:
"I feel like a cow."
"I'm sorry?" I said with a impressively placid look on my face.
"I feel like a cow," he repeated. "You know, being herded into the corral."
"Ah," I said. "I see."
We made eye contact and both smiled. It was the most pleasant part of my 9 hour long day of air travel.
So next time you're at the airport, take a look around and enjoy the people watching....maybe even buck the social norm and try talking to someone.
There's some funny stuff going on.