Wednesday, June 1, 2011

People Watcher

Click here, then read.

Yesterday I traveled across our country, flying from Virginia to Illinois, then all the way back to Arizona. It was the day after Memorial Day, so I was not alone: people from all walks of life—the rich, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to get home—stood in lines, spread their eagles for security scanners, waited in airports, sat squeezed into airplanes for hours on end…sleeping, reading, snacking…staring at little screens with buds in their ears. We’ve all been there.

As always, I had my physical body on a leash, but my mind was left to wander: There’s only one flight attendant on this plane to Chicago…wonder why. That’s a big job for one girl. Hold on a second…is that a girl? Her hair is done up and her makeup is flawless, but her shoulders are broad and she doesn’t have breasts. Her voice is so high and delicate. Hey…I bet that’s a transgendered person. Stop staring! Stop looking her in the eyes…is there no one else here to look at? She’s so in charge and professional. I feel safe. Gotta take a clue from her and stop being so self-conscious. I should style my hair.

Back in Chicago for my four-hour layover, Ohhh Billy. I still can’t believe these automatic toilet seat covers: wave your hand and presto, the plastic rotates…no messing with the disposable kind. Cool. Bet Oprah had something to do with this. Her face is everywhere here, like the sultan’s in Oman.

Am I the only person in this entire airport carrying a laptop? I have to stop lugging this thing around…gotta get an iPad. And it’s hot, like I need four pounds of hot metal sitting on my lap, making me sweat. O’Hare is pretty but I’m not—should’ve showered this morning, not last night. So much for saving time. Greasy hair, oily face, dirt between my toes, deodorant not working. Definitely no potential husbands approaching me today.

People watching…I’m surprised this is still legal. People don’t like to be watched. Hard to watch people and not notice that some are hugely fat and drinking 600 calorie chocolate mochas…some are Chinese and speak to their children in two languages…one is an old man who wanted to visit with me; I blew him off…I have never seen so many Black people in one place…I hope it’s not racist to say that, to say “Chinese” and “Black”…that glee club of singing teenagers bugs me—don’t sing in the airport…that is the cutest child I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to see my cats again. I wonder if I would feel the same way about a baby. I wonder if anyone would ever give me a baby. Don’t give a baby to Casey Anthony.

That was the longest layover I’ve ever had. I’m going to sleep all the way to Phoenix. Guess not; okay, I’m going to read all the way to Phoenix. Magazines…too tired for a book. I didn’t know that Arlington National Cemetery lost track of so many people buried there, digging up urns by mistake to make room for new graves, people’s remains dumped in the dump. You’d think they could do better than that. I didn’t know that shale gas drilling is ruining people’s land in Pennsylvania. Didn’t know Zach Galifianakis doesn’t care what people think. Wish I could be more like Zach Galifianakis.

How weird is it that I’m reading an interview with Chaz Bono as we descend into Phoenix? My travel day sandwiched by transgendered people. I like that. I miss Sonny.


I ask the taxi driver what the weather was like when I was gone; he opens up, going from stone-faced to chatty. He finds out I’m an English teacher and says that in Somali, words are written exactly the way they sound; in English, words are written with silent letters. He hates the ght sound! How can he improve his writing? He asks for my best advice.

Read for fifteen minutes a day, I tell him—anything you want in English. Eventually the ght sound will be your friend. You’ll get it. He is happy and impressed and thankful. He will do this! We smile and wave as he drives away.

I let myself into my house and am greeted by the sight of a newly potted plant, a grand old plant now in a huge new plastic pot, sitting on the stand where it always sits in the front hallway. I see a little dirt on the floor and a pile of ceramic pot pieces on the patio. I am suspicious. My cats tiptoe towards me sideways. It wasn’t our fault, they say. We were playing hide and seek and thought you might be in there.

I’m glad for my neighbor who takes care of such things, and glad for little animals who are easy to forgive. I am not the ght sound—silent and disappearing—and hope that for whatever I do wrong on any given day, forgiveness comes my way so easily.


  1. I took a ride with that same taxi driver a few years ago. Seriously.

  2. This post brought back a lot of memories of past travels. Thanks for the return to those memories... loved the post!


  3. This post brought back a lot of memories from when I used to travel. Thanks for the post - I loved it and the memories it brought back!


  4. Welcome home! Traveling via airports is like entering an alternate universe isn't it? Sometimes I think, This part of my life doesn't's just the between space between sections of my life....the parentheses of my life...the space between where I was, and where I want to be.

    But, really, it all counts, I guess.